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Ruffin’s Renderings: Memorial Day

By Mike Ruffin

ruffinml@gmail.com

Memorial Day will have passed by the time you read this, but I have some thoughts about it I’d like to share, nonetheless. 

My main thought is that Memorial Day should be a serious and solemn occasion. After all, the purpose of Memorial Day is to remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to our nation. I am sure that official Memorial Day observances are appropriately dignified. 

We appreciate and honor all those who have died in military service to our country. We also appreciate and honor the Gold Star families among us. Gold Star families are families with an immediate family member who died during a time of armed conflict. I’ve not suffered the death of a loved one as a result of warfare, so I can’t imagine the pain that the experience would bring to a family. But there are families among us who have suffered that loss and pain. We honor and pray for them.

To maintain that Memorial Day observances should be serious, solemn, and dignified doesn’t mean that they can’t or shouldn’t have a celebratory aspect. It is appropriate that we listen to or sing songs that celebrate the freedoms we have as Americans. It is appropriate that we gather with family members and friends to celebrate the blessings that come with being citizens of this great nation. I would suggest that, when we gather for our Memorial Day cookouts, we take time to reflect on the meaning of the day. We can do so by observing a moment of silence in memory of our fallen heroes, by offering a prayer of thanks for those who have given their lives in service to our country, or by singing a patriotic song. Such a brief observance will serve the purposes of reminding us of and teaching our young ones about the meaning of the day.

We were blessed to have our two grandchildren with us for the Memorial Day weekend. Sullivan will have his fifth birthday in July and Izzy turned three in February. We did most of the things we usually do when they visit—played outside, played inside, read books, watched children’s television programs, tried to get them to eat, and fussed about bedtime. We were reminded yet again of God’s wisdom in usually giving children to young people. (I am grateful for and impressed by grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. God bless you.)

I am pondering the coincidence of our grandchildren’s visit falling on Memorial Day weekend. I am thinking about the fact that the military service members who died in war were someone’s children and grandchildren. I am thinking about how those service members gave their lives defending the Constitution of the United States and obeying the orders of their Commander-in-Chief and superior officers, as they took an oath to do. I am wondering if either or both of our grandchildren will serve in the military. I am wondering if they do serve, will it be during a time of war.

I will be proud of our grandchildren whether or not they serve in the military. I hope they will find ways to serve their nation—and indeed, humanity as a whole—whatever paths in life they choose to follow. But I hope and pray that neither my grandchildren nor anyone else’s children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren will ever again have to give their lives in war for their country. I hope and pray that our nation and other nations will find ways to deal with their differences that will not require going to war. 

I realize that I am hoping and praying for challenging and seemingly impossible things to happen.

But surely one of the best ways we can honor our fallen heroes is to do all we can to lessen the possibility that anyone else has to join their esteemed ranks.

Mike Ruffin is a Barnesville native who lives and works in Macon. His new book, Praying with Matthew, is available at helwys.com and at Amazon.

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