UP FOR DISCUSSION … The Memorial Day weekend can bring to mind so many memories, both good and bad; but for me, like Tennyson, I am so grateful to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!

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Another Memorial Day Weekend!  A time for picnics, barbeques, pool parties, graduations, reunions, and family celebrations and a time to remember those who have sacrificed so much to defend all that we hold dear.  Even with a long fun weekend of family time in the offing, however, Memorial Day has always been a tough time of the year for me.

While I believe I spend most of my time in the here and now, it seems every Memorial Day I also look back and remember the pain of losing a loved one to war.  Every father and mother and sister and brother who have been through that loss have a story to tell, but most of them I suspect are somewhat similar in the theme … the unbearable sense of mourning what could and should have been.  I had long thought the loss I feel every time I allow myself to think about my brother has to do with the actual loss, the sadness of the aftermath, and my helplessness to change the events of early January 1970.  But I have since come to realize, too, this constant sense of loss is also from mourning what could have been in my life that just didn’t happen.  That understanding comes because as I continue to lose a second soldier a little more every day, I am aware of how cheated I feel.  It is always a bittersweet feeling – a time to be with family and a time to remember the family who are no longer there.  Love gets redefined, memories must now suffice, and gratitude is a daily practice in the realization that every moment together with our loved ones is indeed precious.

And this holiday weekend will be bittersweet again.  Tonight, I will attend my grandson’s high school graduation and tomorrow will celebrate his first eighteen years of life and the amazing milestones he has already achieved.  I am so grateful to have this opportunity to step away from my caregiver role and just celebrate life and the promise of things to come.  Yet there will be those who will not be at the party, and that is such a great loss.

I recognize now that mourning is something that continues throughout your life once you have lost someone important within your own circle of love.  With my brother, his loss was sudden and stark and life changing.  With my husband it is more insidious, exhausting, and cruel; but it is just as devastating.  No amount of living seems to prepare us for either scenario.  And I suppose it doesn’t really matter how it happens … mourning what was, and what might have been, is the same in each circumstance … for 50 plus years and, well, forever.

But there is joy in all of that too.  Oh, to have known that kind of love!  This wonderful explanation by Jami Anderson is so well ingrained in my mind by now: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love.  It’s all the love you want to give but cannot.  All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest.  Grief is just love with no place to go.”  Truly, we need to celebrate that we have known that kind of love to begin with and let our memories of time together remind us that gratitude is the only way to go.




UP FOR DISCUSSION:  Does Memorial Day hold special meaning for you?  As a caregiver, has your observation of the holiday changed?  Please feel free to share your stories below.


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