The letters PATH were crudely carved into the wooden door of the garage. That door was painted many times during my childhood so the indentations weren’t as sharp as when first “engraved” by a pre-adolescent boy when he had obviously become bored with adult conversation and the toddler girl who preferred playing with dolls.
I heard the story through the years. Pat and his parents had driven from Detroit to our home in the country for a visit. The adults, involved in renewing their friendship, were unaware of the boy’s artistic adventure and his parents were horrified upon the discovery. My mother said that my dad, who loved children, simply laughed and said something to the effect, “Now we have something to always remind us of Pat.” Words carrying importance beyond their utterance.
Why this story on Memorial Day? Because years after the incident described above, I accompanied my parents to attend a military funeral in Detroit. For Pat Hoffman. I remember little of the service except for the haunting melody of “Taps.” To this day, unexpected tears begin when I hear those notes. It’s not patriotism. It’s remembering.
For those who have experienced the loss of a family member, especially for those who have lost a military family member, this day is not just about barbecues and baseball games. It is day when, regardless of political convictions, of opinions about war, we stop for a moment and intentionally think about those no longer with us. Not everyone has carved initials as reminders, but we all remember something. Take a few minutes today—no matter how painful—and bring those memories to the surface. Stop. Think. Remember. Perhaps weep. And be grateful.