Monday, May 31, 2010

Never lose the stories - Memorial Day

Memorial Day: This image (from the Internet) is powerful because the crosses recede into the mist - as if becoming lost in the fading memories of the pushed into the distance past. We must not let that happen - we must never forget the stories!

Rebekah made a helpful distinction in church yesterday. She said it's important to understand that celebration is not the same as commemoration, and that the point of Memorial Day is to remember, with gratitude, the ultimate sacrifice that has been made by so many. The kind of sacrifice that has secured the freedom we were enjoying, right there in the sanctuary, to practice faith and to live without fear.

Sunday evening, our small group met at Gerard and Peggie's home, and we shared some stories from our own family histories. I wanted the meaning of today to be experienced more personally, because every single person who gave up their life was loved and missed by someone.

I told the story about my great-uncle who died in the trenches in WWI - he was just 17, and the continuation of the horror in WW2 when so much of my mother's East London neighborhood was ravaged by bombs, and the amazing response of her church, where people reached out with love and compassion to the German POWs.

Then Rebekah shared the WW2 story of her uncle Pete (Joseph Peter Alexander), who was lost in the North Atlantic when his ship - the Angelina - was blasted out of the water by a German U-Boat.
There were three survivors, one of whom was able to write an eye-witness account of the moment uncle Pete lost his fight to hang on to floating debris and slipped into the depths.

This is a group of friends who share everything. We pray for each other, we're honest about the times we mess up, we never hold back on the truth.... But I was amazed that there were so few Memorial Day stories to share.

What it revealed was a couple of truths.
  1. We have been, and still are, very much insulated from the tragic reality of this world's day-to-day cycle of conflict and war and death. America has not been - with the exception of events such as 9-11 - a battleground since our own Civil War.
  2. We don't ask enough questions of our elderly relatives, and we don't pass on the stories like we should.
There are lots more Rebekah and I could have told. Like her ancestor who died at the biggest battle to take place in Florida during the Civil War... or the North Carolina Alexanders who fought in the War of Independence (they were a feisty bunch of Scots)!

The point is our family stories help to define us. Any story - even The Greatest Story Ever Told - is in danger of being lost in the span of just one generation.

So my Memorial Day post is about remembering. In England, this day comes in November, and it's called "Remembrance Day." I like that - it's a great concept.

In gratitude for all who served... and serve - DEREK

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