Today, Memorial Day, was originally called Decoration Day because it included for many people a visit to the cemetery to decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers. Placing Memorial Day immediately before we head off in a rush to all our favorite summer activities makes good psychological sense: it invites us to spend time looking at the past, specifically the past we shared with loved ones who are now gone, calling up our memories of them and engaging the ongoing grief work of incorporating those memories into ourselves and our ongoing lives. Remembering allows us to re-member, to gather parts of our experiences and knit them together into a whole, into a self that may look and feel different from the self we were when we had yet to be re-membered.
Who and what do you need to remember in order to be re-membered? Our culture encourages us to commit more of our energies to the future than to the past, to dwell only on what is pleasing. But all that we have experienced must ultimately be gathered into ourselves, allowed a place in our hearts, if we are to be whole. Whether the memory is happy or troubling, it will require our attention at some point. If we refuse to offer that attention, the memory may insert itself in some fashion that is intrusive, coming at us sideways when we least expect it.
Imagine yourself walking into a special kind of cemetery that is not a literal graveyard but a place where all the relationships you have ever known, with people living or absent or dead, have assembled. Which of those relationships could use some care from you, some flowers of decoration that symbolize your willingness to honor that relationship, even if it was a painful relationship, for how it has contributed to the whole person you have become? Which people may be ready for you to offer a measure of forgiveness for the ways they hurt you? Which people do you need to seek forgiveness from, for the ways you hurt them?
Memories make up a significant portion of our identities, for better or worse. We all need a Memorial Day, if not on the actual day then a day we select, when we honor our past and the memories it has provided, with flowers and thankfulness, with tears and hard questions, with forgiveness as we are able, with recognition of how those memories enter our present and point us towards the future. May your times of remembering bring you the gift of being re-membered, being made whole