Monday, May 26, 2014

A Call To Remember

The pre-sun rising, cast rose colored hues across my world. Morning fog hanging just above the ground is a soft pink, causing the morning to feel warm and tranquil. 

I doubt that is how it felt like in 1865, as the ugliness of the Civil War, hung heavy over our nation. A war fought on soil that I could drive to, right here in my beloved United States of America.  

It is said that it was May, when former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, took it upon themselves to honor 257 dead Union soldiers, who had died in a Confederate prison camp and had been buried in a mass grave. According to articles it took several weeks to give a proper burial to each individual solider. Following this sobering undertaking, they held a parade that was led by 2,800 black children, who marched, sang and somberly embraced the early days and the cost of freedom that should have been theirs to begin with. 

It would be three more years before a formal proclamation was issued. Originally called Decoration Day, it was a day set aside to decorate the graves of those who died in war.

The first large observance was held in Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. Members of an organization of veterans, along with orphans from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home, walked and strewn flowers across graves of both Confederate and Union solder graves.  It states that they recited prayers and sang hymns. It had to be another sobering sight.





The cost of freedom.

That is what I've been reading about, as I wondered what the roots of Memorial Day were this year.

It was a few weeks ago when my dad said this: "Who will decorate the graves when I'm gone?" 

Looking around the empty room, I kind of laugh to ease my own tension and slowly answer, "Maybe me?"

It was one of those moments, you just say something, to relive the heaviness of it all.  

Honestly, I really never got the whole decorate the graves thing.

I remember my Grandma Prowette taking the whole long weekend, to make the trek to surrounding towns and various cemeteries to decorate the graves of loved ones. There was a spare bedroom in her turn-of-the-century home, that she stored the artificial flowers the rest of the year.

Truth is, I was too self-absorbed to get it. 

For me, it has just been a long weekend.  Maybe whip up some potato salad, fire up the grill and hang a flag.

But, as much as I love the red, white and blue, I didn't embrace the price that others have paid so I can take the holiday lightly.

So dad, sent me to buy flowers and gave me a list of graves he wanted me to push the iron hanger into the soil and hang the remembrance that our loved ones lie there. 

There were his parents and my mom’s parents. Both of those couples would be over one-hundred years old,  if they were here to tell about it. 

There was my two younger brothers who are buried in the graves, purchased to be the final resting place for my parents. 

And the new plot, where my mom is buried. 

None of these people served in the armed forces, but to my dad, it was important that their graves were decorated. To him, it would be a disgrace if their places were left bare.

So as I went about this task, I began to try to capture in photography, what the Lord has been pressing into my heart about this three day weekend.

Last night I drove to the McPherson National Cemetery. It is like walking on holy ground. Manicured to perfection. Every white stone marker with a small flag. Long rows of flags waving gently in the wind as people made their way around the grounds. 

As I walked in the newer section of the cemetery, I had to choke back tears. There a mom and dad sobbed over their young sons new grave.  They tried to be brave, but their pain just spilled out onto the flowers they were placing on the ground.

And as I walked back to my car, there was the stone that read, "Unknown U.S. Soldier." Somewhere there are parents who were not even able to walk to the grave of their loved one to shed tears or decorate, but they would never forget.  

This holiday is a great time to celebrate an extra day off from the regular routine of life with those who are living that we love. But my soul is moved that there is a much deeper meaning. 

This holiday is a call to remember. 

A call, to not forget, that a heavy price has been paid, over and over and over, again for the freedom I enjoy today.

That we are the land of the free, because of the brave. 

That history is riddled with wars, because there are people who want to deny others freedom. And until this world passes we need brave men and women to live brave.

Today I just want to honor, the heroes who have served our country. 

All the mothers and fathers and wives and husbands, and children, who bear the scars of loss.

Freedom carries a price and the least I can do remember.

And this I know too, that the God of the Universe hasn't missed a thing and there are no "Unknown Soldiers" in His economy. That every valiant deed every done, is remembered. 

Today, I hope you will remember too.


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