Tag Archives: memory

Let’s honor… who and what?

A Normandy Cemetery

Memorial Day–a day that triggers different thoughts and feelings. Also, a day that, hopefully, gives us pause and at least some moments of reflection. For a while this year, I thought an added feature would be a day of argument.

There are some folks who want to clarify the purposes of holidays–they are most noticeable on social media, often posted as a meme (a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea). I saw one this morning suggesting we should understand there are three related holidays:

  1. Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May) to pay tribute to those serving.
  2. Memorial Day (fourth Monday in May) to pay tribute to who died in active military service.
  3. Veterans’ Day (November 11) to pay tribute to those have served in the Armed Forces.

So it becomes arguable that there are three different days for three different populations. And the minute something becomes arguable, folks on Facebook are on it.

I value accuracy, but I’m not joining the debate.

I heard a conversation during which one person pointed out that Memorial Day was not a day to thank those currently serving. His listener replied, “Is it possible to thank those who have served or are serving too much?”

I don’t think so.

As a child, I remember visiting my Grandfather’s grave with my Dad this time of year. There were actually several trips involved as the flag holder was cleaned and painted, the stone cleaned, flowers planted… and we were often not alone as others performed similar tasks in anticipation of parades and visits to honor and remember. No one pointed out that Grandfather did not die in active military service and then suggest it was not appropriate to honor him on Memorial Day. I’m not sure if it was because the memories were fresher or because we just didn’t argue so much back then.

George Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” Perhaps that is where we might stand this Memorial Day, recognizing and honoring the lives of those who served and died, who served and lived, and those who are serving are lives to be honored and not forgotten.

Reminders and Remembering

During a trip through a store recently I found it necessary to wind my way around cases of beer stacked in the aisle. It didn’t take long to recognize this was part of society’s preparation for yet another Memorial Day. I’m not a member of the Temperance Union, so I do not see this as a bad thing.

The day was actually filled with reminders. There was the obligatory stop to deposit a donation in a volunteer fireman’s boot… the need to slow and swerve around the work crews installing flags on the utility poles throughout towns in the area… and the buzzing of lawn mowers and trimmers when driving by cemeteries.

A Normandy Cemetery
A Normandy Cemetery

There’s a lot to love about Memorial Day, really. A memorial is most typically an object, designed to focus memory of something—a person or an event. Memorial Day is meant to remind us of the people who died while serving in the armed forces. Wikipedia puts that number at approximately 1,354,000 for all wars. That is a sobering statistic and a lot of remembering.

But these are not just faceless numbers and names, either. Little effort is required to see them, even if only in our minds and hearts.

An admirable characteristic of our society is that we are willing to memorialize these men and women. We do so in many ways—from granite monuments to parades and ceremonies, we do remember.

One Memorial Day reminder that I haven’t had yet this year is my annual purchase of a poppy. I have past purchases scattered around, attached to jackets, and the lamp beside the bed. I could probably find one in my jewelry box. But it’s the act of purchasing that is important, perhaps because I get to see a face and shake hands with someone who served. I fear this is a fading tradition, even as we celebrate its 100th anniversary. In 1915, Moina Michael came up with the idea of wearing a red poppy in honor of those who died in war. She also sold poppies to friends and coworkers with the proceeds going to benefit servicemen in need.

The program was adopted by the VFW in 1922 and became both a source of income and an important memorial. Most are at least casually familiar with the poem “In Flanders Fields.” Few are aware that it was the inspiration for Moina’s own poem and her poppy program.

We cherish too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies.

While we are willing to memorialize these men and woman, I think Moina understood an important truth. If we were not willing to march or watch… if we were not willing to purchase and hang flags throughout our communities… if we did not visit cemeteries and erect monuments… (all important things we should do)… there are still undeniable signals—some as simple as a red poppy—to remind us that the blood of heroes never dies.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

2014 — A Year in Review

Wh2015_crush_2014ile writing Christmas cards, I found myself sitting with pen poised and brow furrowed, pondering whether or not it was truly possible to condense a full year into a few short sentences. Several friends and I exchange annual greetings that qualify as very short updates of how the year has passed. Unfortunately, contemplating how to do that didn’t mean getting the job done, so I ultimately selected a few key words and activities and scribbled my note.

The activity left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied, so I decided to look back through an entire year of posts on this site. Here are some that represented important events this year. (Click the title to read the entire post.)

Mr. Boomsma, I Really Love You! tells a short story of a five year old who helped me learn an important lesson as she learned about balancing love and respect.

In the post titled Yesterday  I confessed to “fooling” some kindergarteners regarding my abilities. The experience reminded of why I feel so lucky that I get to work with them. No, it’s not because they are easily fooled.

“Gotcha!” marked one of the more meaningful days of the year… “Johnny” has enjoyed pulling one over on me since second grade. He got me again (he was in sixth grade last spring) and reminded me that the line between teacher and student is supposed to be fuzzy.

This Is Important suggested we can find comfort in the truth that “Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”

On Going Amish was written in the middle of a battle with technology. I’m still not sure if I’ve won.

When Teachers Go Fishing was about process (fishing) and results (catching); teaching and learning. “You can’t say you haven’t caught any until you’ve quit fishing.” In non-fishing terms I tell the kids I work with, “You haven’t failed until you’ve given up.”

Before the Birds Start Singing suggests that writing rituals and thinking rituals are closely aligned and worthy of consideration. I confessed to considering some writing rituals that might be considered “odd” so I develop a writer’s reputation as a “character.”

Gee! Haw! One very little girl named Julia reminds us that it’s way too easy to underestimate kids.

Mr. Boomsma Makes Mag celebrates an honor this year—being featured in Maine Seniors Magazine. The photo section created a fun opportunity to work with my (then) third grade future pop star friend. I also ended up being called a “hunk” by some seniors after the article was released. I briefly considered adopting a tag line “working with people from eight to eighty…”

What’s in the Gift You Give? Simple gifts really can be the best, but it still depends on what’s in the package.

Happy Holiday Wishes was my attempt to resolve the debate about how we greet each other in December. While many responses were complimentary, I managed to give at least one person the fodder necessary to become very angry with me, proving once again that in spite of the writer’s best efforts, readers read words and then read meaning into those words that is sometimes way off the intended mark!

Of course there are other posts—some regarding classes, some shared articles and videos by others. A quick analysis of site activity showed that the most popular posts were those with information about activities at school: the PCES Winter Concert and the SAD 4 Veteran’s Celebration. Since I think that’s pretty awesome, I’m planning to give some thought this year to some site redesign that will make that sort of information even more accessible.

And therein lies a final lesson of the year. While it’s true that nothing is ever really lost as long as we remember it, we shouldn’t forget that our future memories aren’t simply a matter of fate and chance. Our choices will greatly influence what we experience.

I don’t tend to make resolutions, but I do try to keep my priorities in order and stay focused. I expect if I spend a lot of time fishing I will catch some fish. Since I do actually go fishing, that’s not just an analogy. But it might be a metaphor. I may not know the specifics, but I do know what I’ll be writing about and remembering this year. Do you?

This is important…

Bethanie and I preparing for Memorial Day
Bethanie and I preparing for Memorial Day

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”

L. M. Montgomery

For me, Memorial Day is always a day of reflection and tradition. Unfortunately, one tradition has been lost because of distance. And yet it has not been lost because of memory.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories center on this day. I remember multiple trips to the cemetery with my father. We would retrieve the flag holder from his father’s grave for wire brushing and a fresh coat of paint before the new flags were placed. I felt a special sense of pride that Grandfather had two flags–British and American, although I didn’t fully understand why at the time.

Of course there was grass to trim and flowers to plant. We also had to go to the Legion Hall because there were rifles to clean and ready. Dad led the honor guard and he strove for perfection. To this day, I long to hear “one shot” when the volley is fired. And after all these years, I consider myself fortunate that I can still remember those days when the whole town turned out to follow the parade. I wish we still did that.

Dad served in the Navy, stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. I believe he strove for perfection because it a way of honoring and remembering those who didn’t come home. In the too few years he and I had together he taught me many things. On Memorial Day I learned “This is important.”

I was five when my Dad was laid to rest next to his father. When old enough I accepted the responsibility for maintaining the family plot. For a while I was able to share it with my daughter Bethanie.

Abbot Memorial Day 2012
Abbot Memorial Day 2012 “This is important.”

Time has passed. Life has happened. And while I miss actually making those preparations I am pleased they are not lost.

Today is a day for remembering and there is much to remember. I’ll be at our town parade. Most of these parades get a little shorter every year. The news reports that one town in Massachusetts will not have a parade, “There aren’t enough veterans.” But in my mind I’ll see an endless line of veterans marching. They are not lost. I’ll probably get a lump in my throat when taps are played.  But I’ll smile when I remember that the term “taps”   originates from the Dutch term taptoe, meaning “close the beer taps and send the troops back to camp.”

Remembering and reflecting does not have to be about loss. “Nothing is ever really lost as long as we remember it.”

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.