Another Memorial Day is here and it is always a time of reflection for me. I’ve written on it several years the past.
Yes, I have friends who died serving in wars with me.
Yes, we lost those wars. And now I have friends who served alongside me whose families continue to be at risk from the loss in those wars.
Yes, I worked hard to try to change that, and though we made some progress as a team for others, I wasn’t able to help my friends’ relatives.
Yes, we have many causes of death that are unjust and we as a people could work to reduce them in many meaningful and valuable ways.
Yes, we should treat the day as an occasion be reflective.
To consider what we want as a people.
To be thankful of the actions of others in including the ultimate sacrifice – that of their lives and the lives of those they love in service of an ideal that should benefit others.
Yes, there are likely less expensive and deadly ways to have these impacts that people should know more about (like public health interventions).
Yes, we as a nation have a severe military-civil divide where each misunderstands the other.
Yes, it would be better if the oligarchs participated in the risk to life that their choices impose on others.
Yes, more public service and mixing of people of different backgrounds would likely benefit our nation, our society, and make us stronger.
But, for my part, I’m marking this day in smaller-scale contemplation, time with family, group texting old Marine Buddies, doing just a tiny bit of work for my employer, and writing this.
For me, this day serves as a reminder of all the people I have known and loved that have died. Not only those that served with me in the military, and died in service. Some might be offended by that but I think the sacredness of life and the meaning that reflections on death can offer is worth it.
So I’ve thought not only about my friends that died in a dusty village from enemy action, but also of one that died at home from alcoholism, one of the deaths of despair plaguing our nation.
I think of my father in law who died from a heart attack while working on his beach house eager to show it to his grandkids.
I think of my friend who recently lost his mother, and the conversation we had before that happened (but after the two above) in which he observed we as military veterans have seen death younger than most people tend to in our society, but that we will see it more and more as we age. This is a fact we may not like, but an immovable one.
I think too of near-deaths. My own – separated by feet from rounds or explosives. My wife’s from cancer that was responsive to treatment instead of not.
Of my youngest daughter’s whose little lungs worked hard and responded to the heroic efforts of the medical team that saved her. Who sleeps now in her room facedown on her bed. Exhausted from being ridiculous. And trying. And alive.
Its a rainy day so we’re mostly stuck at home. We cooked breakfast. We had deep conversations about life and the world, why Texas is a dangerous place to be as a woman, between my wife and our first grader. We had a dance party to one direction with the three year old. We had pillow fights. We read books.We sang and yelled and tickled. We got frustrated and exhausted and worn out. We changed diapers and dried tears and scolded and praised and laughed and teased. I argued with old Marine buddies about war and the world, and made fun of each other. We watched TV and screens and colored and built forts. We cooked more. We made plans, and changed them. We put the preschooler down for a nap that she resisted for hours. I got in a Peloton bike ride, joined a call for my employer and did 90 minutes worth of work even on a holiday because of timing issues. We discussed that one a bit too. And I sat down to write this.
And we are alive. And we wont be forever.
And you are alive. And you won’t be forever.
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address
Memento Mori. Advance life.
P.S. I find this guide to reflecting on the meaning of life from death very meaningful.