My three children took different paths as they became young adults. They’re kind enough to include my wife and me on their journeys. Through texts, emails, calls, and the occasional visit we hear about their days.
From time to time, I’m reminded of the old adage that you’re only as happy as your saddest child. We have those days. But even then, we’re still here. Together.
What happens when you lose a child, at any age? We’re not wired to lose our children. Thankfully, I have not. We did lose my brother to illness, so my mother is a member of that unfortunate club.
And what happens when it’s not a person that loses a loved one, but a nation? What’s the proper response? Peoples around the world build memorials and describe the battles, but that doesn’t capture the emotion, and it’s hard to keep in our minds the people we didn’t personally know.
As a nation, we’ve lost some of our sons, and now some of our daughters…
Some families feel this at the dinner table or holiday gathering, when there’s an empty place that once was occupied by a loved one who joined the service.
The rest of us? It’s complicated.
The idea of one nation seems quaint, but not nostalgic. Any reading of history tells me that we’re only united when we’re attacked, when our existence is threatened.
That makes sense.
Apart from that, we’ve always been a roiling mess of competing interests. The commonality has been that we all think we are right, and that we believe we have a right to express ourselves, be heard, and live as we see fit.
We’re on the cusp of the 2020 election season, with a full two dozen Democrats lined up to unseat President Donald Trump. Whether you hope they succeed or fail isn’t the point. It’s that, as a nation we have lost some of our most precious resources – our sons and daughters – in the effort to make sure that we have the right to choose… to set our path.
The race to November 2020 will be marked by people desperate to point out our failures, our inadequacies. Opportunities in this country aren’t equal. Our history is full of blemishes. We’re not perfect. We’re human.
I have to try harder to reconcile the shortcomings I think I see in our nation with the price we pay for our existence: someone else’s son, someone else’s daughter.
Past and present. Again, it’s complicated.
The best way I can honor that sacrifice…
On this Memorial Day or any other day, is by doing my best to help us move in the right direction. Learn the issues of our governance. Vote. Respect the opinions of others. Respect their rights in the way I believe they should respect mine.
It’s not an equal trade for the sacrifices made, but it’s what I can offer.
And then I can celebrate. I can be joyful for their memory, and for our continuing existence, abundance, and our future, which they purchased for us.
Happy Memorial Day