I speak their names on Memorial Day, but I’m not sad or somber. I no longer linger in the darkness. In short, I no longer let the last Monday in May turn into a day of mourning.
Memorial Day is to honor the fallen – it’s not a second funeral or a day to wallow in sadness or loss. It’s about honoring and respecting the promises we made to those who are not here. I believe in the national moment of silence and then raising a glass to the fallen, but then I step away from anything dark or sad because every one of the those who are gone would want us to live, love, and laugh.
I’ve been told that’s a healthy place to be, and I’ve also been reminded that not everyone feels that way.
The truth is that some folks may never get there because the loss is so deep and painful. It’s really hard to remember that when we chose this life and took our place in line with those no longer beside us, that we said we’d do certain things for each other. We agreed to carry each other’s memories with us where ever we went. But we also looked each other in the eye and said, “Dude, have a hell of a party for me when I’m gone.” The agreement was to have the drink, eat the steak, and sleep with the damn prom queen/king. None of us asked anyone to be sad, lonely, or depressed.
For many of us, that loss often carries twice the weight it probably should. It comes with a healthy dose of all the survivor’s guilt and the crappy memories of goodbyes not said. It often comes with images that we don’t want to see again, but can’t get rid of. When you’re being crushed under that kind of weight, it can be damn hard to remember that you have to keep a firm grip on the bar, lift with your legs, and above all – keep your head up. And all the talk in social media about how hard Memorial Day is for us makes us feel as though we have to keep carrying that weight even if we’re finally ready to set that heavy damn ruck down for the day.
The fact is that most of us have spent way too much time being hung up on the end of our friend’s lives rather than their actual life – those things that drew us together and those things that we most cared about – the things that we so loved them that we were willing to share our last mini-bottle of Tabasco sauce with the crazy fools or look at that nasty-ass blister on their foot. We’ve forgotten that we were all doing something we loved and believed in.
We’ve also forgotten that our brothers and sisters only asked that we remember and honor their lives – not mourn them. It took me years to get to the point where I could choose to remember and honor the life rather than dwell on the death. It’s a choice that I’m grateful to have and to make.
I think those we’re honoring would much rather if we called a couple friends and threw some burgers on the grill and told wild stories about the perpetually young and crazy warriors we all once were rather than sitting silently in the house. So, as I said, I’ll say their names, hoist a drink in their honor, and yes, I’ll probably cry for a few of them. But then, I’ll step out there and do the things I promised. I’ll talk about them as I live, love, and laugh, because I truly believe that’s what they’d want us to do.
I hope that those of you who are struggling can set your packs down and take a breath. If you need help, please reach out. There are many willing hands that are here for you. May you all have a safe and blessed Memorial Day.