The origins of our Memorial Day tradition only make the honoring more poignant...
Decoration Day began in the years following the Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865. The death toll was unimaginable... claiming more lives than any conflict in United States history. Families were torn apart. The divide between the North and South a wound that ran deep.
As the war came to a close, Congress established the national cemetery system to lay our fallen soldiers to rest, both Union and Confederate.
In the years following the Civil War, people began holding rituals in the spring to lay flowers and pray over the graves in tribute to the many, many fallen soldiers. Thus, Decoration Day became a way to remember the service of the brave and loved.
In 1868, General John A. Logan set aside the 30th of May "for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land."
Can you imagine the pain and visceral grief those families experienced as they laid flowers at the graves of husbands, sons, friends... and enemies... for the Union and Confederate soldiers often lay side by side in the cemeteries as nearby fields still bore the scars of the too recent battles, soaked in the blood that nearly tore our country in two.
It was a monumental step of faith to ask the people to decorate all the graves. For the loved and for the enemy.
Some were brothers... Some were strangers.
But for the sake of unity. For the enduring of a nation... the memorials were laid for all who fought.
It humbles me to think of the strength it took for those families to lay aside their deep hurt and choose to honor all the fallen.
Those steps of faith walk us through history. Decoration Day became Memorial Day soon after World War I when as a nation we honored all our fallen, both those here and those on foreign soil.
And that faith can be a model to each of us. When we choose to set aside our differences, our pain, our heartbreak and walk out love right where we are. And not just this Memorial Day... it is a way of living life well and gifting Grace far and wide.
"We ought always to thank God for you,
brothers and sisters, and rightly so,
because your faith is growing more and more,
and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
Therefore, among God's churches we boast about
your perseverance and faith
in all the persecutions and trials
you are enduring."
II Thess 1:3.4
Faith in who we are and whose we are... this Memorial Day I am reminded that the most holy of Love comes from a God who did not neglect to share it with us through the gift and sacrifice of Christ.
For surely, in Christ that love overflowed and covered this unworthy heart with an unmerited tenderness. And it is in Christ that faith finds a foothold and the strength to persevere during the storms and sufferings of this life...
... giving us the strength to decorate the grave of our enemy and move forward in faith as forgiveness frees our wounded souls.
Graced to Remember this day,
In Love, Always,