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Tue, July 16

Opinion: A weekend for solemn remembrance

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Judy Bluhm

There was a death in the family. Those cruel words have been spoken and experienced by all of us. A parent, spouse, child, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent departs from our life and we are catapulted into a different space. The grieving zone. That place that no one cares to be and yet somehow none can completely escape.

Memorial Day sometimes is the poignant reminder that we are honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military. It is a solemn day of remembrance. Sometimes we confuse it with the joy of a three-day weekend or a family barbeque. There are Memorial Day sales and plenty of events to attend. Still, it is the day that marks a deep sadness for so many families across our great country.

Losing a young person is especially heart-breaking. For many families Memorial Day is the time to go to the cemetery, bring a lawn chair or blanket, sit for a while on the grave of an American hero and contemplate “what could have been.” This is the sorrow when a soldier dies . . . the loss of all the life celebrations and landmarks that were to come, are gone now. The wedding, children, college, career . . .all the dreams that didn’t get a chance to be lived are intricately woven into the loss.

My daughter’s stepson, Christopher, was killed in a motorcycle accident last weekend. He was in his twenties, a free spirit, artist and world traveler. Going down the windy road from Jerome, a car made a u-turn in front of him. Even being careful and wearing a helmet, doesn’t mean that a tragedy can’t occur. It makes us ask “why God” and come up with no answer. Death is the final act that cannot be imagined in someone so young and so promising.

My high school friend, Ted, was killed in Viet Nam. He was just two weeks from coming home. His mother sat for three months on a lawn chair at the foot of his grave. She read books and talked to him. She cried every day until, as she said, “I had no more tears.” There was something alarming, and yet courageous about her daily ritual. Her family was bereft. Her minister came to talk with her. A doctor was sent. Yet, after ninety days she emerged. Sad but stronger. Grieving but accepting. Ready to take small steps towards living.

When Memorial Day became a federal holiday back in 1971, it had actually been celebrated as Decoration Day since the years following the Civil War. It is the unofficial “beginning of summer.” And being from Ohio, most folks back east used Memorial Day as the green light to start wearing white slacks, shoes and purses. It was a very important window of opportunity to dress in white. Because by Labor Day, that was considered a no-no.

How has your Memorial Weekend been going? A flag? Maybe a visit to a cemetery? A prayer for those lost? White shoes?

I will remember. Those who served. Those we lost. My friend Ted. The grieving families. And sweet Christopher. A time to honor and grieve.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.

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