I dreamt about my grampa last night. I guess it only fitting, being memorial day weekend and all.
My grandpa died in 1992; I still miss him.
He was the type of person who would go back and tell the chef he loved the meal–just to let him know.
He was big on family. More often than not you could find him behind a camera or camcorder, making memories; we were always in front, shooing him way.
He made his own wine; some of which was really, really bad. He’d just shrug and laugh and try again the next year.
He was a complete and total nut–much to the exasperation of my grandmother. We still relive some of his better schticks; they still make us laugh.
He was a gentleman. He did not believe in crossing lines, taking over, or pretending to know it all. I still remember him sitting me down–not long before he died–and telling me, for my sake, to forgive my father. He went on to say he believed I would, in my own time. He didn’t scold, or talk down.
He loved adventure. I love the black and white photo of a young man, in leather chaps, standing next to his prized Indian. Of course, he seemed just as happy driving a boat of a Buick cross country to visit family.
He was a hard worker. While many of us would rejoice in any reason to get out of work, he continued even when cancer had taken over. He worked until he simply could not work any longer.
When he died, his hospice nurse asked to sing at his funeral. She sang–a little shrill and a little off-key–“The Wind Beneath my Wings.” The funeral home was beyond capacity. Grown men, dressed in military finery, stood in back, wiping away tears. The man who usually played taps at the graveside had to bow out; he wouldn’t be able to get through it, he said. Not for Vern.
Anyone who knew my grandpa could understand. None of us quite wanted to admit lights out for a man such as he.
He touched lives wherever he went–with concern in those baby blues, with that ornery smile, with a quiet dignity.
Often times I think it highly unfair he was taken so soon. He never got to know the spouses of his grandkids; he never got to know his great-grands–including the one who is his splitting image or the one named in his honor. Nor will they get to know him.
I guess it’s up to those of us who did know him, to be a mirror.
Maybe that’s what memorial day is all about. Thinking of all those who have come into our lives and left a footprint that will never fade. We know the traits that have touched our own lives. What better memorial than turning around and passing them on …
You see them every year–veterans selling small paper poppies. Every year fewer of us seem to take note–we simply haven’t the time. We should take the time, however. For poppies, you see, are rather amazing flowers. Though they appear frail, they are quite valiant. Their seeds can remain underground, sleeping, for years. All it takes is a good churning of the soil to awaken them from their slumber. And that’s exactly what happened on the fields of Northern France and Flanders during WWI. Amid the death and destruction of the battlefield, red poppies began to bloom. One day Lt. Col. John McCrae, a physician from Canada, looked out over the crimson blossoms and penned the following:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow; Between the crosses, row on row; That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly; Scarce heard amid the guns below; We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved; and now we lie In Flanders field…
McCrae died a few years later–joining those of whom he wrote, with a cross marking his place, in a sea of poppies, far from home. But McCrae’s words continue to remind us of the countless men and women who have given their lives for freedom. They paid the highest price. The least we can do is be thankful for the sacrifice. So this Memorial Day let us take the time. Buy a poppy. Say a prayer. Remember.
“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” – Billy Graham
It began as “Decoration day,” May 30, 1868 – a day to honor those who gave their lives in the Civil War. Since becoming a Federal holiday in 1971, Memorial Day now represents a day to remember all those who have gone before. Amid the fun of a three-day weekend – picnics and BBQs, family and friends – let us not forget the men and women who have paid the highest price. From the American Revolution to the Gulf War, over 1,500,000 men and women have given their lives – not including the countless men and women who have died, and continue to die, in the battle that rages today. We may never know their names, but someone does. Someone has lost a father or mother, a son or daughter, a sister or brother, a neighbor, a friend. A life once lived is now gone forever; and all for taking a stand. As we remember their courage and ultimate sacrifice, let us vow to do more than acknowledge a moment of silence, or drape a flag upon a headstone. Let us be determined to allow their courage to strengthen our own. May we never tire of doing good; may we never tire of standing for what is right. And in so taking that stand, our memorial will be more than just a date on the calendar. It will be our very lives.