It’s Memorial Day weekend, and while many Americans will spend the three days at backyard parties or at the beach, it’s also a time of recollection–of loved ones who’ve passed away, particularly as a result of military service. This is in keeping with the history of the observance–it was first known as “Decoration Day,” as the head of the organization for Northern Civil War veterans had suggested a day–intentionally not the anniversary of a great battle–of national recognition for veterans of both Union and Confederate armies. The event had also been originally observed in cemeteries in the North; in the South, the day was typically marked on or near important battlefields. And women were instrumental in these earliest recognitions. Indeed, the Women’s Relief Corps, some 100,000 members strong in the late 19th Century, either led or help stage these events on either side of the Mason-Dixon line.
The relationship of Memorial Day to cemeteries is but one reason I support the development of a “memorial garden” at TUC. Having such a spot on our grounds would be a lovely way to remember our now-deceased former members, those whose efforts helped TUC extend its legacy of progressive thought and action to the present day. And thus, if Memorial Day typically recognizes those who died in our country’s name in war, why not also recognize those who willingly sacrificed much in the name of justice and peace?
This weekend also carries personal poignancy, as it marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death. This Sunday at Third Church, we’ll be with members who have survived the death of their children, and I’ll be thinking of them. My heart and mind will also be filled with reminiscences of Janet Dexter Covell, of her zest for life and for educating children, and of her parent’s final resting place on a shaded, grassy hillside overlooking the Great Androscoggin falls in Maine.
I look forward to seeing you in church, and a lovely panoramic picture of the congregation in the midst of reflective observance–in this case, at the recent Seder–is below.