I spent part of this past Memorial Day over at the Evergreen Washelli cemetery near our home, where several of my wife’s relatives share a final resting place. It’s also where we will set up camp one day.
Some people aren’t big on cemeteries. My side of the family has always had an attraction to them, and probably spends more time putting flowers on the markers of family members than most people. Heck, my sister Debbie and I even dragged my wife Victoria along some years ago, when we went Celebrity Tombstone hunting. If you ever want to give it a try, head to the Hollywood Forever cemetery in Southern California. It’s a goldmine of famous folks.
Meanwhile, back at Memorial Day. After flowering up the graves of my wife’s relatives, we took a quick drive across Highway 99 to the other side of Evergreen Washelli, which includes a military section of those we’ve lost serving their country. Every year, volunteers put 5,000 flags out next to the headstones of those fallen warriors and it’s hard to get emotional in thinking about how sad it was these young lives were ended way too soon.
Being lucky enough to live to the ripe old age of 65 (66 in September, if you want to start your shopping), I stood there staring at a section of soldiers who had died in the late 1960s. Obviously, they were all casualties of the Viet Nam war and I was thinking, “By the grace of God, that could have been me.” I was young enough to be available for a military draft just one year, shortly before they ended the practice of enlisting people, whether they liked it or not.
That year I was targeted, my draft number was down in the 200’s, which meant I probably wouldn’t have been picked.
I could have been in the under-150s and while the Viet Nam war was winding down, what if???
There are a lot of young men and women out there who never realized their childhood dreams; never heard the cry of their newborn child or watched a part of them growing up and heading out into the world. Standing there, you couldn’t help but feel sadness for all those lives lost, while at the same time, being incredibly grateful for all of them laying down their lives so that we could enjoy the place we call home and our way of life.
Maybe you were out basking in a rare sunny Northwest weekend, out on a boat, or getting together with friends and family you haven’t hung out with for a long time–and, without masks. Totally understandable.
But there’s a reason we have a Memorial Day. It’s a gentle reminder for all of us to realize what we’ve got, how lucky we truly are, and acknowledging those who helped make it possible. If you didn’t have a chance to reflect on Monday, do it today. Or even, just take a quick mental escape to express your appreciation for all you’ve got.
Because, seriously, it’s never too late.