Friday, May 22, 2015

Short Days Ago We Lived

This weekend, we celebrate Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember and honor those who gave their lives in the wars of this nation.

Memorial Day is not for us who served and survive. Neither is it to honor those who continue to serve this day, no matter how grateful we are for their service. No. This weekend is dedicated to the memory and honor of our dead, those who fought and died for us. it is set aside that we might hear their voice in the silence that transcends the clash and clamor of our daily lives.

What do these honored dead say to we who live and remain? Major John McRae captured it most eloquently in the second stanza of his poem "In Flanders Fields"

"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."

For these honored dead, there is no time. No life remains for them to enjoy the pleasures of this earth. Short days ago they lived, laughed, loved, and enjoyed even as we do today. They were once, and are no more.

What have they to say to us? To McRae, the words were clear,

"Take up the quarrel with the foe.
To you from failing hands we throw the torch!
Be yours to hold it high.
If you break faith with us who die
We will not rest though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields."

The torch! We are to lift and hold high the torch of light and freedom, to be a beacon to all who long to be free, to become the city on the hill that cannot be hidden.

Long before Major McCrae, PresidentAbraham Lincoln voiced the same sentiment in "a few appropriate words" uttered in late November 1863 at the dedication of a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield as a cemetery for those who died in that battle.

Lincoln stated that "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." Then, he called upon we who live and remain to complete the work begun by the brave men who gave their lives at Gettysburg.

There have been other wars since Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, other wars since Major McCrae penned his poem in Flanders. Even today, flowers remain unwilted on fresh graves in Arlington and other cemeteries and churchyards around the nation. Even today, the torch is passed. Even today, the work continues.

In the words of Lincoln, "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

What measure of increased devotion will you take?

What part of the work falls to you?

How will you spend your Memorial Day?