Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It All Started To Remember John

Decoration Day, circa 1927
   It was on a spring afternoon nearly 150 years ago that the family stepped off the wagon bench and made their way across the cemetery to find the crude marker erected for John. He would have been brother, son, maybe even husband and father. However he was related, on that afternoon, he was being remembered. John would have been one of the hundreds of thousands that were similarly remembered at cemeteries planted on the very soil of the battlefields of the Civil War. John, William, Robert, Levi, Archer, Josiah, Ralph, Lemuel. Just a few of the names of those memorialized in cemeteries after that war.
   One story is told of three women in Columbus, Mississippi in 1866 who decorated the graves marking fallen from both sides with flowers. The US Department of Veteran Affairs even gives our Columbus, Georgia a nod as possibly being one of the first cities to observe the day - a distinction that apparently is hotly debated. By 1868 the practice of decorating soldiers' graves had become widespread in the North, with the first official observance probably in upstate New York in May 1866.  It is noted that in both the North and South the earliest Memorial Day celebrations were simple, somber occasions for veterans and their families to honor the day and attend to local cemeteries.  It was known as Decoration Day for the first many decades of its observance.
   Regardless of the name of the day, or the soldier memorialized, the tradition that was started for one war has been extended to the wars and conflicts since. It has also been extended out from the families of fallen soldiers to families of thankful Americans everywhere. No longer can we leave the work of Memorial Day only to those most closely affected. My prayer is that the memorials we offer last longer than cut flowers.  My prayer is that we would be unfailing in our prayers of thanksgiving and efforts for peace.
   The church joins in this weekend to remember and say thanks. We say thanks to those who have served, to those who are serving, and we remember those who gave their lives in our nations efforts at establishing freedom. The Scriptures use the word Remember over 200 times. Apparently GOd knows that even the command to remember is something we will forget. It is a theme and an action we must continue to pick up and carry on. Grace and Peace to you.

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