Yesterday the Eastern Orthodox celebrated the saints, and today many Americans celebrate fallen soldiers, and in the midst of remembrances of saints and soldiers I find myself thinking on a little girl who fought a great battle, and endured worse than a bullet, and who now watches from the blessed cloud of witnesses.
It’s a good thing, I believe, to remember the dead — especially in a culture that trivializes death. We shunt it aside to the fantastic realms of video games and movies, and call it by other names when we do it to old people and unborn infants, and all of this is a way, I think, of grasping life in the wrong way, in a way that reveals the underlying belief, for many of us, that our lives are about our gratification.
That’s such a big word for an experience that is so very small. Gratification is as far removed from joy as hunger is from a great feast, and yet we forsake the latter in pursuit of the former because joy, like a feast, requires sacrifice.
So it’s a good thing to remember those who gave their lives in sacrifice for others. Think on them, and if you like you can light a candle or mutter a prayer, a prayer that you and I and the rest of the world will, if only for a slender day, give ourselves over to loving someone other than ourselves, which means the great sacrifice of setting down our hurts and lusts and grievances and entitlements, all of which are chains with heavy anchors, but which we gather to us like treasures. But today, if only for today, what say we lay them down?
It is a good thing to remember people who have laid down their very selves, and maybe to be a little more like them.
And still there is this girl. Why is she in my thoughts so heavily this day? Perhaps because she so infuses the book that I cannot talk about it without talking about her. Or perhaps it’s Isaiah, who in his voice and laughter and even tears sounds so very much like the sister he hasn’t met. Maybe it’s the approach of Father’s Day, or the slant of light, or the smell of fresh rain on the leaves.
I don’t know, any more, why some days we remember, as we all do, all of us caught up sometimes in the hurt of missing someone we cannot see again so long as we breathe.
But it’s a good thing, to remember. Tonight I’ll make spaghetti. It’s not a Memorial Day meal, but in another way it is, because it was her favorite, and so today it’s my favorite too. We’ll all sit together and eat, and we’ll talk about the sacrifices of those who have gone before, and in the chatter and bustle of my children I will quietly remember her, and this is good. We should make all our days memorial days, if only to be reminded that we ought to live bigger lives than forgetting allows.