On Memorial Day we are called upon to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We remember and memorialize the names of those Americans who died for their country in war and in peace. We also have the Tomb of the Unknowns for everyone whose names were lost or whose remains were never identified, so we can also hold a vision and memory for them
It is also a time to remember those who loved the ones who have died in service to our country.
The pain of loss and sacrifice of a life is felt most immediately and deeply by the people who loved them. A parent, a child, a partner or spouse, a friend – all of those whose dreams and hopes are shattered along with the life that is extinguished.
The Actual Dance isn’t just a play. It is real. The Actual Dance happens with the loss of a loved one and it can be the most devastating event in one’s life.
The Actual Dance imagines and offers a path to finding grace: the beauty and dignity in a process that involves holding the hand of the person you love most in the world as they leave this world. It is ultimately a privilege and an honor – as difficult as it is – to have that opportunity. A long good-bye, perhaps. A chance to say in many different words and ways “I love you” It is the ultimate Act of Love.
Yet, the solider (or diplomat or simply someone who just ended-up in the ‘wrong place’) was most likely lost while away from “home.” Perhaps in a foreign place in some sort of hard-to-imagine situation. Perhaps just a day at work when someone sets off a bomb. Perhaps while trying to save someone else.
The news comes often in the form of a car arriving in the driveway with people walking up to the door. If you are at home at the time and notice out the window the cars arriving, you “know” even before the doorbell rings. Some people even report “knowing” somehow when “it” happens.
Still, there is always a Dance. It begins when “we know” or suspect the outcome. People with loved ones in harms’ way are already at least in the “ballroom” every day until they are re-united. Living with the possibility that on any day the cars can appear in the drive way is part of The Actual Dance. Just as much as being there when the body returns, the funeral happens and with the emptiness of each day that follows knowing that there will be no real coming home.
As we remember those who died, we need also think of all those who loved them. Those who continue on every day without them and who hold their memories so dear. Perhaps Memorial Day can be reframed a bit to be more explicit about who and what we remember.
There is dignity and beauty in the intimate relationship with our heroes that a parent, child, spouse or partner, or other lover experience. What if Memorial Day becomes about joining in that place and holding the hands with them and honoring them as well as the loved one they lost.