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Memorial Day, 2012
May 28, 2012
It’s Memorial Day, 2012, and two Air Force jets from Fort Carson 75 miles away have just flown over our house. There’s a gathering in town at the public park and I assume the flyover is part of that ceremony. I saw empty chairs sitting out there in the sun this morning when I was walking the dogs. The honor guard was readying itself, the sound person was making sure the microphones worked, and several people were taking pictures with their smart phones. Naturally I thought about the occasion and the people who have offered their lives for our country. I don’t know any of them personally. My father, who fought in Korea, came home alive and unhurt. My grandfather served in both World Wars, but he came home safe, too.
On Memorial Day, I think about Forrest, my son who died ten years ago. He served his country too, simply by being here. I tend to be a pacifist. I grew up with a lot of Quaker influence living in Philadelphia. I know there’s sometimes a need to defend oneself and ones country, but I’ve never believed that guns and bombs were the right way to solve our problems. A Pakistani woman on the News Hour last week was asked about whether drone strikes in her country aggravated the situation or helped it. She answered the way I would answer: how can an attack on human beings do anything but incite more violence?
But I don’t pretend to know the answer. In my own life, I’ve done things that have hurt or angered others, and they have done things that have hurt or angered me. Attempts to address our problems face to face are often unsuccessful, undesirable, and sometimes just too hard to hope for. So we stay hurt and angry, hoping that time will eventually take the edge off; give us the distance we need to forgive and be forgiven.
My friend Abby, recently shared a quote from Lily Tomlin: "forgiveness is accepting the fact that you can't change the past." I think she’s right. I’ve never been a big fan of the word 'acceptance,’ though. It’s always felt defeatist to me somehow. Like a dull ache is how I described it to Abby when we were talking about it. She responded by saying that she didn’t like the word ‘acceptance’ either until she found out it originally meant a thread used in weaving. When she told me that, it changed my feelings too.
Here in Colorado, it’s a “bluebird day,” as Brent would say: clear skies, shimmering aspen leaves, bluebirds and swallows hopping from fence to fence. A lawn mower evens up the grass across the street. Participants in the Memorial Day Ceremony downtown are eating pancakes at the bowling alley by now. Tasha has just joined me out here on the deck to soak up the sun. I feel lucky, quiet, and grateful.