Editorial: In Memoriam

Editorial: In Memoriam

Memorial Day, despite its somber significance, has come to be a celebratory event.  The timing coincides with the unofficial start of the summer season, sales on hot dogs and bathing suits, and, here in New York City, Fleet Week.  Young men and women arrive at the dock in uniform and come bounding out en masse, celebrating their dual-sensed freedom and enjoying New York’s spectacular array of attractions.  It’s an opportunity for those among us who haven’t served to see firsthand the vitality and commitment represented in our armed forces.  After all, one shouldn’t need to wait for tragedy to honor a life – particularly when there are plenty of military, wounded in battle or still serving, whose service we should celebrate and be thankful for while they’re alive.  The blessings each of us know are due, in part, to the freedoms they fight to protect.

Memorial Day is a hugely commercial holiday, and although it may seem crass to profit while simultaneously honoring fallen heroes, at least something positive comes out of harsh, sad reality of the thousands of lives we’ve lost in battle in the U.S. since the commemorative day was first founded out of the extremely deadly Civil War.  Still, we hope we don’t have to remind you to uphold the true spirit of the occasion.  It may indeed be a good reason to barbecue — but let us be cognizant of why it’s a national holiday and a day off for many.  That extra time we spend together should be meaningful.

At The Forum we have an extended family that includes several children under the age of five, one of whom visited two memorials last weekend.  “Mommy, what’s a memorial?” he asked, and a faltering mother attempted to explain the two planes that 14 years ago crashed into the very tall buildings in Battery Park and the thousands of people whose names are carved in granite where those buildings once stood.

A “memorial” is defined as something created to preserve the memory of a person or event.  For young children, whose ability to remember may not be fully developed, conceptualizing the true meaning of “memorial” may be as difficult as actually remembering well someone who died.  Nonetheless, for those with young children, Memorial Day, in fact, could be a reason to celebrate not only the memories of our fallen armed servicemen and women but also those of others who have touched our lives.

At the funeral for Howard Beach toddler Valentina Allen, who passed away last week after battling heart disease for all her short life, the four-year-old munchkin in our midst asked her grandmother where little Valentina was, later sending red balloons up to her in Heaven.  That special message from one strong, beautiful little girl to another was a memorial.  Like those we honor on Memorial Day, Valentina was a fighter to the end, and there’s no reason why we can’t extend the meaning of the holiday to include her.

The red balloons Gianna floated up to Valentina are modern-day red poppies, the Memorial Day symbol that in the early 20th century came to signify the holiday, after poems by John McCrae and Moina Michael described flowers that grew on the battlefields where soldiers died.  Michael then conceived of honoring those fallen by wearing red poppies on Memorial Day – a tradition maintained by the VFW today.

Memorials are, in addition to tributes and preservations, ways of saying goodbye, particularly when it can feel like we didn’t have enough time to do so while those now deceased were living.  We definitely didn’t have the proper chance to do so with Valentina, as we don’t with those robbed away from us in war.

We at The Forum hope that you all enjoy a pleasant and safe Memorial Day, regardless of whether you’re remembering fallen soldiers, saying good-bye to other loved ones, or honoring the living by spending extra time with friends and family.


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