To us he was a husband and a father…in my opinion two of the greatest things that a man can aspire to be in this life and do well at. Michael was both with such force that the effects carry on still today. Our hearts and our lives, despite what we do and where we go, will forever be tied to him and the time that we were granted by his side. He was other things…a Marine to the Corp, a son to his parents, a brother to his 3 siblings, and Uncle to his 2 beautiful nieces, a cousin to his many cousins, a nephew to his many Aunts and Uncles, a grandson to his grandparents, and a friend. I had the pleasure of seeing daily the husband, father, and friend that he was…and at other times I saw him fill the other roles. My proudest moments by Michael’s side were when I stood on the sidelines of his promotion to SGT and the day I became his wife. It was wonderful to see him, so strong and capable, standing in front of his formation accepting his new rank. I will never forget that day…and I will never forget the day I walked down the aisle to marry Michael…he was beaming at the altar. It was the perfect moment and it brought tears to my eyes. This man truly loved me above all else, and I was glad…I am glad.
I was thinking about how to write this post all week…just this morning I got my answer. I pulled all the kids together to tell them what today was. I told them,”Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. When Decoration Day began whole towns of people gathered to honor the war dead. They decorated headstones and the town to pay tribute to those who died. They had parades and other celebrations to remember the lives of those who perished. Much later, when Mimi and Papa were kids, it became a national holiday “on the books.” Lots of people spend today with their families, kicking off summer, doing different things. Some people use today to remember those who have died while fighting for our nation, while others do not. The most important thing that I want you to do every year is to not only remember Daddy, and that he died for our nation, but also all the other men and women who died. I want you to use today to help others to remember the sacrifices of your Daddy and others like him.”
Michael then said,”Okay Mommy, because WE remember Daddy every day. Because Daddy is not here, Daddy is in heaven with Jesus. So we think about him all the time…but I will tell my friends to remember too.”
Before Michael died I am almost certain that I enjoyed the long weekends that today’s “holiday” gave us. I can’t remember a single Memorial Day and what we did…not one…but there were probably sprinklers and burgers involved. Those days off were probably carefree because even though Michael had lost friends in this war, I had not. That is just reality. I knew of people who died (obviously), I even listened to Michael tell me about his friends who did not make it home alive, but I had not experienced a personal loss. I was always the organizer…the person in charge of what we did…so I probably had family and friends over, Michael probably drank too much beer, I probably cooked too much food, and the kids probably had an abundance of fun.
Since Michael died I have declined every Memorial Day BBQ invitation that has been extended to me. This is the thing though…I don’t blame people for wanting to get together and have fun on their long weekend off. I don’t even really care what they get themselves into. I declined out of pure knowledge that I just did not want to be around people on Memorial Day. I had this new knowledge of what the day meant, and I knew that I absolutely could not handle my own emotions long enough to be around people. I am sure that those people who invited me did with good intentions of honoring Michael and the others like him. I thank them for that…but the truth is…I just didn’t want to break down and cry in front of them. I wanted to do that in private. I don’t know what is going to happen today. I might be able to stomach time around others, I might not.
Some of the posts that I have read on Facebook this week have been nice reminders of what today is, others have been more than overwhelming, and a few have been rude (chastising others for their plans). I love, honor, and remember Michael and his sacrifice everyday…not just on the day that we are “supposed” to nationally recognize my husband and his death (and the countless others). As evidenced by what Michael said…he does too. We cannot go a day without thinking about Michael. It shouldn’t be a one day thing…it should be an everyday thing. Yesterday we remembered and talked about Daddy, today we did and will talk about him, and tomorrow will be more of the same. It is a part of our lives. However, I know that the life that we live is different than the lives of some of you that will read this. You have not had the same experience…you have not lost your husband in this war and your children have not lost their father…
Today just be…just do what you do because that is what Michael and so many others went to war to fight for…for all of us to be able to live the way that we want to live. While you do that take a moment to remember, fly your flag half mast until noon and then raise it as a symbol of you lifting up the memory of those who have died in war, decorate your house, eat good food, laugh, go to the beach, just REMEMBER, HONOR, and send a THANK YOU to those who are no longer with us.
Have a blessed day.