Memorial Day brings with it my own personal day of remembrance – the anniversary of my daughter’s car crash and death. This May marks three years.
Each year, as the date has approached, I have tried to convince myself that it would be just another day, no worse than any other – and every year I am wrong.
As the days get closer to that fateful anniversary, my temper grows shorter. I find myself frighteningly close to either tears or anger; my usual sunny nature vanished. I am not conscious of the impending date at the time my temper flares. Afterward, I realize and admit I over-reacted to something small. When I examine why, I understand the relevance of the third week of May.
Ah, no wonder I’m edgy.
Recently, two teenage sisters have joined my family. They too are struggling with May. They lost their father a year ago this month; and their grandmother, with whom they grew up and called Mom, the final week in April. Services have not yet been held. While they make their way through the last days of school, struggling through the pressure of exams, finals, parties, celebrations and deadlines, they are also strapped to the wild ride of grief. My youngest daughter absorbs the intangible electricity of our combined emotions, and – not comprehending – finds herself caught up in the emotional fog.
Most of us have suffered a loss of one sort or another during our lives. Grief visits each of us in greater or lesser degrees with each loss, and it always leaves a lasting mark. Each of us has a personal way of memorializing our losses. The anniversary of a death is nearly always a day of sorrow, whether it is formally observed or not.
I have found in dealing with multiple losses over the years, especially the loss of my daughter, the best way for me to pass through these “death dates” is to look directly at the loss, let myself feel the grief, fully recognizing the significance of the date and its impact on my life. I never truly want to do this – it is quite painful. But if I do this, inevitably my irritability fades. A quiet, if sorrowful peace takes its place. I welcome that peace and do my best to hold onto it.
Memorial Day is federal holiday. A day set aside for remembrance of the men and women who have fallen in the line of duty while serving our country. It is the official national day of mourning for our lost children, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our national interests.
It is also a day when many of us remember our personal losses – whether military or otherwise – and contemplate the nature of God, the universe, and why good people are untimely taken from us. Personal answers to those weighty questions vary, but the turmoil and pain in the hearts of the grieving is an intrinsic part of the human condition.
For those truly observing Memorial Day, whether in its traditional sense or a specifically personal way, my hope is that each finds a path through the grief to peace.
Life is transitory, and memories are truly priceless. May this Memorial Day bring a lasting sense of peace to all those who grieve.