As your opened your calendar for May, what did you see written there? A note you’d made of a birthday or anniversary or wedding you’d be celebrating? Or did your eyes go first to the preprinted words, “Memorial Day”? Staring at the entry for Monday, May 30, what memories did it invoke for you? If you grew up in the South, you’d likely also hear it called “Decoration Day.” What are your traditions for that day?
At Callaway-Jones, we know that a grave site is often the place we say a final “goodbye” to loved ones. When lives are lost in military service to our country, we add the words, “Thank you for your service,” even when the loss of life is so newly fresh that the words are hard to say. The ultimate sacrifice, one life for a country, is worth deep reflection. With the pain of loss can come pride in the courage it took for one to enter the military and serve our country, despite it costing many others the ultimate price of a life well loved.
We don’t know what tomorrow brings. It wouldn’t be good if we did, anyway. But we can stop and think this week, as Memorial Day approaches, about what it is that we remember about those in our family whose lives were lost in service to our country. Maybe they were our favorite relatives; perhaps they are only names of family members from 100 years ago that we’ve just heard about in stories. Wouldn’t you just love to ask someone who’s passed away just one question? What would you like someone to know about you 50, 60, or 70 years from now?
Have you written anything down for generations to come to learn who you were, what you stood for and what you believed about the 21st century you’re living in? That’s why we ask you think about this coming weekend, what do you remember about the life that was lost? How will you be remembered?
Southern families have often chosen the Memorial Day weekend, particularly because it has a holiday Monday with it, as a time to hold annual family reunions. It is a good way to cushion the memories of loss by creating new memories among those gathered to learn more of their family’s heritage or to teach the next generation what it means “to belong” to your family.
Last year, The Eagle reported community volunteer Ellen Horner had been leading the way for 25 years in “placing new American flags at the College Station Cemetery to honor veterans on Memorial Day.” That’s about 850 flags that Ms. Horner and her volunteers from heritage groups take time to replace. Several events will be happening for Memorial Day in our twin cities; be sure to watch The Eagle for details and times coming up this next weekend.
And if you are part of a family that’s holding a reunion this coming weekend, when all ages will gather and bring photo albums, sit together, eat, reminisce and gently laugh at happy times they all shared together—remember to remember those who could not be there because they made the ultimate sacrifice, some in times of war and others in times of peace.
No one among us wants to fight a war, any more than we want our loved ones to have to do battle, and lose their lives in the process. For many among us, though, that is our journey. We owe those individuals a debt of gratitude and period of time to show our deepest respect. May we agree to reflect this weekend, allowing a respectful hush to quiet our overstimulated minds. Let’s search for our family photo albums, reviewing photos of our loved ones who bravely entered military service, at some point, in our distant pasts.
As we tell our children and grandchildren about their ancestors who served their country proudly, we can consider using our favorite smartphones to record small children looking up, eyes large in wonder, as we, this generation’s storytellers, pass along the priceless treasure of family stories, from generation to generation.
Fifty, seventy-five, and one hundred years from now, future family members, some of whom will perhaps carry your exact same name into fourth and fifth generations, will be so glad you did. No vast fortune, insurance policies, or plot of land will ever replace the value of anything as much as your preserving your history and heritage for those who will come after your lifetime. And, fortunately, it’s something we can all afford to do.
So, how do you want those as-yet unborn generations to remember you? At Callaway-Jones, we’ve been honored that five generations of our family have been asked to help tell your life stories to those you leave behind. We will always do the right thing by you; you have my word.
Cody D. Jones ‘02
Owner and Local Community Member