Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Days

Perhaps we might consider honoring our war dead by renewing the efforts of the living that such sacrifice never be called for again, that swords be the last resort rather than the first, that we send our old (for we have already lived long) rather than our young, that we love more and fear less, that the concept we call ‘war’ might pass so far in our memory as to become nothing more than a horrific recall in the books of history.

Perhaps we might, this Decoration Day, remember the words of Robert E. Lee, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we would grow too fond of it.”  Maybe we will sit down at our tables this night and speak in hushed tones to our young of the terrible times when we humans lost our way and offer our memories as a solemn warning.

Perhaps we will read our children not Tennyson but Twain*, not news dispatches from the front, but Edna St. Vincent Millay** and Judyth Hill***.

Perhaps, with just a hint of prescience, we will pull back from the brinks of our own making and call that our homage to those gone before, whispering our sorrow that we did not do better sooner.

Perhaps we will repent that as a species we continue to find it easier to kill than compromise, to manufacture weapons than to petition another for redress.

Perhaps we will begin by refusing to call their deaths good, coming as they did on the crosses of our own failings.


*Mark Twain’s The War Prayer, a harsh reminder that (as in our own Civil War) our prayers for our own victory, if granted, come at a terrible cost, was not published in his lifetime.  Twain noted, “None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.”

** Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote The Conscientious Objector some time prior to 1934 when it was published.  An ardent supporter of WWII, in her earlier years, she was a pacifist and The Conscientious Objector is a poignant reminder to count the cost, as she resists offering up friend or enemy to death.

*** Judyth Hill’s Wage Peace, written in the wake of September 11, 2001, is a beautiful reminder that we need not breathe out what we breathe in , reading in part:
Wage Peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble.
Breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red-wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
Breathe out sleeping children and fresh mown fields. . .
Act as if armistice has already arrived.


  1. Beth, love that affirmation that we need not breathe out what we breathe in. Transformative!

    1. Liz, I know - isn't it just a beautiful realization? Need to be working on that myself. Hugs & love in your post-Assembly week. Beth

  2. Thanks for this blog and a reminder the dear cost of even having this day to celebrate