I had several posts planned for today…and then I remembered what day it is, and realized there was a good reason why words don’t seem to flow right now.
Memorial Day is hard.
I’ll be honest; this holiday never really meant anything to me until my Grampa died almost eight years ago. Until he passed away, no one close to me had died, and Memorial Day was just a day that we got together to eat good food, play games, and enjoy a break from the ordinary. I remember one year, I went to the cemetery with my Grama, to lay a wreath of fake flowers on someone’s grave, but I don’t know who it was, or why they were important to her. I wish I had been old enough to think about it.
My Grampa was in the Army, and went to England during WWII. I don’t know what he did there; he was almost completely deaf by the time I was old enough to want to know about his younger life. I wish I could have heard his stories. I only know a very small few, and I regret that self-absorbed innocence of childhood that robbed me of the opportunity to hear more.
When my Grampa died, Memorial Day started to mean something to me. It became personal. And even though I still participate in family BBQs and play games, this holiday feels solemn now. Sacred.
Especially these past two years.
When Matthew died, life changed.
Matt was one of Nick’s best friends. They grew up together, served on puppet team together, counseled at summer camp together, and got into trouble together. Then Nick married me, and Matt moved out of state, then enlisted in the Army.
When he got out of the service, he was changed. Matthew was the kind of guy that always had a kind word and helping hand for everyone, and even though war had touched him, that never changed. So while those close to him knew that he had been struggling with depression, nobody knew how bad it really was until it was too late.
Nick and I were several states away when we got the news. Matt was missing for a while before his body was found, and it was the longest two weeks…
Two years later, and this is still so incredibly painful to write.
I didn’t know Matt well. He was my husband’s close friend, and we hung out often enough, but I didn’t know him long enough to really dig deep. But I know my husband, and I know how much Nick cared about him, and how much Matt’s death cost him. It was almost a year ago that Nick almost followed Matthew home. Something I didn’t know before is that when someone kills themselves, there is a substantial risk that someone close to them will follow.
Memorial Day isn’t just for remembering those lost in war, but also for those lost to war after the fact. Matthew fought bravely for his country, and even though he died off the battlefield, his loss is no less keenly felt, or worthy of remembrance.
Thank you – you who currently serve in our armed forces.
Thank you – you who have moved on with your lives after service.
Thank you – you who are preparing to enter the military.
Thank you – you who send your loved ones into battle.
Thank you – you who pray for and support our men and women in uniform.
And thank you – you who laid down your lives in service to our country, whether on the battle field, or off.
Your service, sacrifice, and dedication mean the world to us.
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