May 25, 2013 3:36:36 PM
This is Memorial Day weekend. If you have driven through the countryside, as I have, you may have seen people out in rural cemeteries, cleaning old family gravesites in memory of relatives long gone. It is a pretty sight and a heart-warming one to see living generations paying tribute to those who have helped make them unique, whether through genes, generosity, legend or love. Each of us stands on the shoulders of those who went before, for all life is a continuum.
Old stories are told again. The personalities and characters that describe ancestors are kept alive. They help us, the living, to remember Who We Are.
There is a great emphasis on Memorial Day to honor those who have fallen in battle, or who have otherwise given their lives in the service to or protection of our country. It is a shame, I think, that nearly every generation faces a need for this protection, sometime from foreign enemies, sometime from those within our borders. War is not glorious. It is ugly, even obscene. But those who have had to wrestle with it on behalf of countrymen deserve all the honor we can bestow.
I was talking recently with a parent whose family had taken all their children on "The Tour of Europe." The youngsters had been required to do their homework in order to go. They had read histories of the areas they were to visit. When, on a beautiful summer day, they went to the French coast at the site of the World War II beachheads of Omaha and Utah, the battle sites swarmed with sunbathers and swimmers. The daughter in the family burst into tears. "How can they do that here, where so many soldiers died?" she said.
Her mother replied, "They are able to play here now, because of what those soldiers did."
Well, who knows? If the Nazis had won, there might still have been people swimming and frolicking on those beaches nearly 70 years later, but there would be many more who had died in the inhuman concentration camps that the Nazis ran.
As we head to our beaches or other holiday spots this Memorial Day weekend, let us remember the brave men -- yes, it is not hyperbole to call them noble -- and others like them, who sacrificed their lives in order to let others enjoy the simple gift of life. We honor those who died. We also honor those who serve today. And may we earnestly pray that wherever our soldiers fight, it will always be for an honorable reason, never for the foolish greed of war-makers.
My second observation is not nearly so morbid. I have recently attended a graduation ceremony at a large university. (My granddaughter's husband received his Ph. D. from the University of Missouri.) I am telling you, folks, something has got to be done about these graduations. With ceremonies at different times for the different schools of the university, we still had to sit in that stadium nearly four hours!
University officials had tried their best to streamline things, I think. There were no speakers. The only program consisted of two deans leading the Missouri cheer -- Miz-Zou, Miz-Zou, Miz-Zou -- in their academic regalia. But there seemed to be an endless supply of graduates.
My granddaughter, Mary Frances, had had the foresight to plan little games for us to play during the lengthy parade of grads. She had made Bingo cards with words on them instead of numbers. If anyone mentioned "graduation," or "succeed," or "future," or other such words, we had little stickers to cover them on our cards. I bingoed and asked Mary Frances where my prize was. She just laughed and shrugged and said she had not gotten that far.
I am glad we did not have to have another ceremony for her to get her Ph.T. (Putting Hubby Through.) This old grandma could never have survived that, plus an 11-hour drive back to Mississippi. Don't we love our youngsters?
Malthus was right after all. There are just too many people. Especially at graduations.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.