Memorial Day a chance to spread a little comfort

May 28, 2007|by Dee Mayberry

There are bittersweet thoughts to be shared on Memorial Day 2007. Amid the buntings, parades and pleasant ceremonies are mixed feelings about memorials in general.

One thinks especially of families grieving for those lost in the Middle East, while not forgetting other war heroes. On this day we do our very best to honor the fallen, but to families left behind it can seem so little.

We try to console with tributes and to acknowledge that the man or woman in uniform offered the greatest possible gift to each of us at home. Blended with our faith that those lost still are near us, knowing and seeing us, is the comfort of often distant memories.

Some are fortunate to find genuine truth in the belief that those who have left hover about us in periods when our wounds of loss are fresh and raw. Some sense a familiar embrace. Deep in the heart may be heard a tiny, familiar whisper that all is well now pain has gone.


There may arise an imaginary nearness (or maybe totally real), a flutter of spiritual life prepared to stay and support us until time initiates healing.

Pondering the mysteries of life and death, one tends to ask why not? Why is it not real that my loved one with soul and spirit now free could linger close to give me strength?

Friends try to help as well. They ask what they can do; they send condolences and stumble with the words. They mean well but, in fact, often make it hard for the bereaved. How does a survivor answer the question, "what can I do?" At first thought, the truthful reply is "nothing" and so the conversation ends.

However, there are things kind people can do. Without tears or sad demeanor they can speak about knowing or knowing of the person who has gone. They can allow the grieving friend a period of denial, a moment to look back toward happier times.

Friends can help relieve the awfulness of finality in ways specific to the person who grieves. Perhaps talk may turn to funny things previously shared. Friends are capable of changing tears to moments of laughter with a lighthearted story.

Experts might say this kind of thing slows acceptance of loss. Maybe that's true, but another way to look at the matter is: Anything that dulls pain can't be all bad.

Possibly Memorial Day was established with that purpose in the back of somebody's mind. Maybe creating a moment to ease broken hearts with patriotism and pride was built into this national day.

Many manage implication of the day with a search for strength. There is something to be said about that word - so often addressed to family members.

Strength often can be observed. We think: This person or that always is strong. He or she never falters in a crisis. We know our grieving friend can manage even this.

We might not realize how much "strength" is based on coping skills, early training or categories of life experiences. It may in no way be a reflection of what goes on in the true inner person.

Somewhere down deep in the one who appears to need nothing may lie a vulnerable self pleading for help or a soft, caring word. The gruff businessman, who brushes off a courteous gesture, may be trembling inside, desperately afraid that he cannot survive what he must accept.

Often the angry person is using that emotion to reduce the more painful sensation of fear. For moments at least suffering from loss may be eased with a soothing word or gentle touch. It can take courage to speak out to a tightly wound individual whose body language shouts, "I'm OK, keep your distance." The truly kind will find that courage.

We can dilute bad things within and about us in an expression of gratitude for service past and present, the protection we continue to enjoy.

Memorial Day, taken in the proper spirit, is our chance to do this collectively. It gives us a time to celebrate those who came home and those who did not. It is the opportunity to give a national thumbs up to men and women slugging it out right now.

If comforting the bereaved is difficult, we can put our national pride on display. Good actions, good thoughts can be a public thank you message to those in uniform. However we spend this day, let's include a special thought for the people of all kinds who have made and continue to make us what we really are.

God bless us all this Memorial Day.

Dee Mayberry is a Boonsboro resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

The Herald-Mail Articles