Sunday, May 30, 2010
I wrote this on Memorial Day weekend a couple of years ago. It seemed appropriate to post again today.
This morning I packed Josiah, Jakob and Jeremiah into the back of my car to take them to Karli's. The clouds had departed leaving Portland with amazingly blue skies. I pulled the silver Mercedes out of the driveway, opened the sunroof and cranked up the tunes. I watched in my rear view mirror as Jeremiah was nodding his freshly shaven head. I could see Jakob's wooly noggin moving back and forth to the beat and Josiah was rhythmically shaking his fat little feet.
They were swaying, singing and carefree as we began to approach the top of Mt. Scott. It's a beautiful mountain with perfectly manicured cemeteries on both sides. On the south side are the rolling hills of Lincoln Park where our tiny Isaiah lies safely in the baby garden. To the north is Willamette National Cemetery. It's surrounded by stately high iron fences with beautiful stone columns that break up the iron boundary.
As soon as the National Cemetery was in view a hush fell over the car. Each boy sat wide eyed taking in the beautiful site. Even Little Josiah was taken by what he saw. Boy scouts, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, had placed flags on each one of the thousands of gravesites. The view was breathtaking. There was a sea of American flags gently waving in the calm morning breeze. The small flags were punctuated by larger, more impressive flags lining both sides of the roads that meandered throughout the cemetery.
There were people of all ages and walks of life bringing flowers to their loved ones. They walked slowly and solemnly through the flowing flags in search of the right site on which to place the red, white and blue bouquets they so carefully carried.
It reminded me of when my father and I went on our Southern America road trip a few years back. We drove through battlefields of the Civil War, we saw monuments and memorials. We ended up in a cemetery in North Carolina. The gravesites there were decorated by hundreds of small Union and Confederate flags marking the graves of our fallen soldiers. It hit me how in life they fought to the death for the principles each side of a fractured America believed in and how now, they lie peacefully side by side in a small cemetery in North Carolina. What had separated them in life had brought them together in death. It was a time that has been seared into my soul. I looked back at Willamette National Cemetery and thought of the men and women that were lying there. They, too, had fought long and hard for what we now take too much for granted.
As I was lost in my own thoughts about the day I heard Jakob's small, quivering voice. He was trying to tell us through his tears how special it was that we remember the ones that fought for our freedoms and the freedoms of those throughout our world. He said how sad the people in the cemetery must be going to see their sons, fathers, grandfathers and brothers but that their pride must be much stronger than their sadness to have heroes in their families.
What a statement for a little skinny, eight year old boy. Adults don't even get it much of the time. We're going to lie together in death; we should make more of an effort to stand together in life.