Remembering the dead is always poignant. Those of us of a certain generation are emotional at the site of American flags on display in military cemeteries. Decorating family graves is bittersweet. Remembering those who gave their lives protecting us is no small matter. I think of all those 19-year-olds at places like Normandy and the Argonne, and too many others.
Can you imagine (I cannot), in the smoke and mist of battle, feeling alone in a forest, and calling out for your mother? God knows men on both sides have done that since time immemorial.
Thank you, Lord, that people have given of themselves to protect the rest of us.
Death is a specter in our world.
That’s why I take comfort in the promises of the Bible. Resurrection is a strong theme in Scripture, and it reminds us that each person is precious to God. Each one. Not only in our era, but all eras.
Some might think it odd, but when these bits of memory float across my consciousness, I think of how much God has always loved humanity. The Babylonian scribe. The Aztec princess. The Russian officer at Pyana River.
All are precious in His site.
God is always concerned about the individual. Yes, He guides history and eras and civilizations, but the person matters to the Creator.
We hear an echo of this in the sublime closing speech delivered by Spencer Tracy’s character, Judge Dan Haywood, in “Judgment at Nuremberg”:
“Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: Justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”
So we think about these things here in America, on Memorial Day weekend.
Is there life after death? The Bible says there is.
(An aside: there are plenty of evidences that the Bible is wholly true. Believing that is the key step in believing its promises of resurrection and full life in the life beyond.)
At the Getty Museum in California, there is a touching display of the effects of death on the human conscience.
An Athenian woman, identified as Sime, sits on a chair, surrounded by her family. The gravestone further depicts her as shaking hands with her husband, and the takeaway is that there is a bond between family members after death.
Our hearts feel more than a twinge at such images. Humanity shared is an intimate experience, no matter who we are or where we’re from. All die.
Yet the Bible speaks of resurrection. I have heard scholars say that ancient man, in his “primitive thinking” knew little about the afterlife. That’s silly and wrong. Job, for example, knew a great deal about the next life. So did the rest of the great figures of the Bible. The New Testament, echoing the Hebrew Scriptures, speaks much about the life beyond.
An elderly friend of mine is currently watching her best friend die from cancer. It has caused her to think about her own mortality, of course. We all do. She is grappling at this moment with understanding how God deals with us at such a time.
Another dear friend lost her mother to breast cancer 20 years ago. I firmly believe they will see each other again, in perfect health and joy everlasting.
The Bible speaks of a future time, when there will be—permanently—no more suffering or death or sadness.
“And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.” (Isaiah 65:19)
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
I am sitting now on my deck, surrounded by woods and the melodies of a thousand songbirds. I am thinking of a placard I read at the World War 2 Museum in New Orleans; the words of a young man speeding across the English Channel in the early morning of June 6, 1944:
“The Channel waves bounced our craft like a bobber, and a heavy mist made visibility far from good. There was no conversation now. Each soldier was making his peace with himself as we got closer to the beach.”
I do not know what happened to that soldier. But I know—here at Memorial Day—that he mattered to God.
Who is in your thoughts on Memorial Day?