“I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” President Ronald Regan’s Memorial Day speech, 1982
Though it wasn’t made an official holiday until 1971, Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868, to honor the sacrifices of those who died in the Civil War. It was a celebration organized by former Union soldiers and sailors. It’s become an opportunity for us in our country to show gratitude for all who have fought to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted. And now we have the chance to thank those on the front lines fighting a disease we can’t see until it has attacked.
Loss right now is a shared experience as a result of the pandemic and all the circumstances that have arisen from it. Remembering the good times, the blessings we all still have can help orient our perspective to what is good about our country and our circumstances, the hope we have even in the midst of the unknown, and the fear it causes.
One of God’s favorite words in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is “remember”. The Hebrew people had been promised a nation and land, and there have been times throughout history where they’ve lost sight of both. God encouraged them to remember what He had said and how He’d already fulfilled promises to them He’d made. He has promised He will finish the good work He’s begun in His own.
Living in a broken world where people so easily hurt themselves and others, it’s easy to forget goodness and hope. It’s easy to overlook the blessings when what pushes at us the most are the disappointments.
Our troubles aren’t over. They’re part of this life and learning to embrace them as they come and deal with them–more easily with the help of God–is what life is about.
Our anthem does end with that question and challenge. Who are we really, as a country full of diversity and uniqueness that makes us better together than alone? Are we really free in our souls? Do we display bravery in light of the challenges against us?
We are a people made in the image of God, and we have the incredible gift of freedom. It’s not perfect, but it acknowledges that we are each a person of value, with a contribution worth sharing. Those who have gone before us laid the groundwork we are building on.
We’ve not gotten to where we are on our own; we need to do life together. As we celebrate Memorial Day, offer your gratitude to someone who has helped you, who has impacted your life in a positive way. Remember the cost of getting to where we are.
Ask yourself the questions: Are you truly free? Mind, heart, and soul? Do you have the bravery to live your life with dignity and integrity?
God makes it possible.