Memorial Day is a day we set aside to remember those we have lost, especially those brave warriors who have defended our freedom. Though it is painful to acknowledge that those who we long to be here with us on earth are gone, it is important to remember them. This holiday is essential to our health and happiness.
Paul explained the importance of grieving by remembering this way in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
It is indeed encouraging to remember the work of the cross in overcoming the sting of death. When we remember our losses in light of the resurrection, we have every reason to be encouraged in the midst of our sadness. Remembering is healthy as we remember the fullness of what our loved one has experienced. St Bernard of Clairvaux said: “I can never lose one whom I have loved unto the end; One to whom my soul cleaves so firmly that I can never be separated does not go away but only goes before.”
We Christians have every reason to have a picnic on Memorial Day. We believe that our losses on this earth are not eternal losses. We can remember with hope that the experience of death is not the eternal experience. We know that death is painful, sad and tragic, but not final!
We can remember in hope. I love this prayer from the Orthodox Church prayed for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord.
“O God of spirits, and of all flesh, who has trampled down death, crushed the power of the devil, and granted life to your world, do thou yourself, O Lord, give rest to the soul of your servant ____ who has fallen asleep, in a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of repose, where there is no grief, sorrow or mourning. Forgive every sin which he/she has committed in word or deed or thought, for Thou art a good God who loves mankind. For there is no one who lives and does not sin; only Thou art without sin; Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness and Thy word is truth.”
May his/her memory be eternal!