Sunday, May 19, 2013

Memorial Day: We Want You Back!

Uncle and his cheesecakes.

     What does Memorial Weekend mean to you?  Extra time with the family?  A three-day weekend? Eating?  Grilling?  Fun?  Or perhaps remembering others?
     My Uncle died eleven years ago on May 15th.  Uncle was my Mom’s younger brother.  He never married, so when I was a kid, my family was his family.  He used to drive up from Throgs Neck to stay with us for weekends and even went on vacations with us.
     Uncle was always a lot of fun to be with and acted like a big kid himself until he retired from the railroad.
     Uncle had a great sense of humor and loved to tell jokes.  He once told my two brothers and I that he had hidden an Easter Egg with five dollars in it at a campground where we were staying.  We looked for it at every opportunity.  The adults had some peace and quiet and we kids had the thrill of a treasure hunt.  He gave us each five dollars, a kings ransom at the time, for the souvenir shop, too.
     Uncle was not particularly athletic, but he thought if he had on a team shirt, he would look that way.  He had shirts from every team in every sport.  He always brought bags of shirts for my kids.  It didn’t matter what size the kids were, he thought bigger was better and bought extra large.
     My Uncle always arrived at my house with cheesecakes.  There would be one for each of us.  There could never be too much cheesecake where he was concerned.
     My Uncle never mastered the art of balancing a checkbook so he used cash and money orders for just about everything.  He kept most of his money hidden around his house.  His favorite hiding place was in a hole in his mattress.  We were all so upset when he died, that we forgot about that, and threw the mattress, and the money, away.
     Uncle had been in the Navy and so at his funeral two crisply dressed Sailors came to pay their respects, play taps, and present my Mom with a folded flag.  It was beautiful.  I stood there with my Dad, also a sailor, and thought of my son stationed in the Gulf on the Carrier USS John Paul Jones and prayed that I wouldn’t hear that mournful sound again anytime soon.
     After the funeral, my mom took care of tidying up the inevitable loose ends of paper work.  She paid  his last bills, sold his house, and had his mail forwarded to her in Virginia.  Sport Illustrated sent him a postcard proclaiming - We Want You Back!  Well, yes.  Yes, we do.
     Like most of us, Uncle will never be written about in a history book.  He is remembered by those whose lives he touched.
     On Memorial Day we remember those living and dead who sacrificed to give us the freedoms that we enjoy.  It is always sobering to reflect on the reality that the liberties we enjoy today came at a great cost.
It is the soldier, not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the  soldier, not the reporter, 
who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, 
who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer, 
who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the soldier, not the politician,
who has given us the right to vote.
    On Memorial Day, we pause as a nation to express our recognition and to collectively say we won’t forget.
     We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  ~1 Thes. 1:3

    Who do you remember on Memorial Day?
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