My husband, John, and I have an odd date we love to plan–it’s one of our favorites. We change into our yard-work clothes, old and raggy, load up our beat up 1989 Ford F150 with cuttings, branches, and other green waste, and head to the county dump.
Jackson joins us. What dog would turn down the chance to ride through the dump with the windows open and a multitude of smells rapidly bombarding his hypersensitive nose.
After unloading our truck and sweeping out the back, we travel home, stopping at McDonald’s on the way. John and I split a $1.00 diet coke and a dollar menu chicken biscuit. Jackson gets a plain cheeseburger. He doesn’t like pickles or mustard.
The date is fun, productive, and cheap. Our marriage has lasted 30 years on cheap dates and bonding through yard-work and chores.
Memorial Day weekend in 2009, we stopped at the traffic light by the local Post Office we always passed on the way to the dump. The American flag hung high, gently swayed by the warm breeze.
“John, pull over!” I yelled and gestured, pointing at the parking lot in front of the Post Office. A car had pulled in and its driver’s door was open. Next to the front of it was the dark figure of a body laying face down in the gravel.
We jumped out just as police arrived. A neighbor already called 911. The man, a regular customer at the Post Office and war veteran, had taken his own life, shooting himself in the head. He died instantly. Word was that he had been very depressed and without friends and family for support, decided he couldn’t go on.
I will never forget what I saw that day. His body, clad in worn out jeans and a blue denim shirt, lay below the American flag now at half mast in honor of Americans who lost their life due to war. As if he wanted to say, “Remember me this Memorial Day.”
Remembering Memorial Day has faded into a holiday weekend of partying, summer’s initiation, and massive throngs of people traveling in the name of rest and recreation.
Each year, an average of 500 people will die on Memorial Day Weekend due to traffic accidents. I wonder how many die due to suicides. Memorial Day was meant to remember those lost honorably as they died for our freedom and safety in the United States.
Each Memorial Day, at exactly 3:00 PM local time, a moment of silence is observed throughout the country. This Monday, take the time to do this and close your eyes, remember it’s Memorial Day, pray for those lost and those left behind to suffer, and thank God in heaven we live freely.
For me, Memorial Day will never be the same. The figure lying in the parking lot on the gravel that day remains in my mind as a vivid reminder of the hurt and loss war brings. He was a stranger to me, but an angel to God.
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:2-3)