Memorial Day 2020. It’s unlikely we will ever forget this day as an unseen enemy ravages nearly 100,000 families in the United States and over five million worldwide. Or will we remember? Do we remember how Memorial Day was observed in 1941 when emotions were raw and anger raged only five months after over two thousand lives were lost at Pearl Harbor? Or in 1968 when troops sloshed through the swamps of Viet Nam? Only those personally touched by those events can recall them in detail.
We are people with short memories and, according to experts, that’s not a totally bad thing. Ryan Fan writes, To survive, we must be able to compartmentalize, put us into the moment, and have selective short memories. That isn’t to say that we actually forget major life events… We will all have those life experiences and moments that are so emotionally salient and visceral that they stick with us… But even the worst things don’t stay with us when the time comes to focus, when we have a deadline coming up, or just navigating a lot of tasks that accompany daily life.
Although I didn’t have family members die or be physically wounded in war—but emotional injuries scarred several—I put out the small American flag this weekend. I spent some time remembering tall Uncle “Slim” standing ramrod straight in his sharply creased uniform. Uncle Walt in his official Navy photograph with his impish grin caught even in that supposedly serious pose. Cousins Leonard crossing the Rhine and Earl on a ship.
But it was another remembering that caught me by surprise when I opened a “spy” novel the other day. The author sets his tale in the Middle East and before chapter one opens, I see a pen-and-ink drawn map of the area. Countries and cities now unfortunately known because of battles and refugee camps, death counts and parades of weary families hauling bundled possessions.
But then I recall another view of this area, one preceding the modern Middle East by centuries, one described by the author of Genesis. This very area now dripping with tears was once a garden watered by four rivers. Bomb burned trees today tilt precariously where lush branches once provided food. Shattered buildings where God provided shelter. Eden long forgotten.
We rightly weep over the sacrifices made by brave women and men in defense of their country. But today I also weep over senseless sin that burns souls like those blackened trees. Needless hunger when we have resources to feed all. Refugee camps when we have the means to free wandering people. And—most important—lost and weeping souls when we have the message of life.
It’s time to remember.