On Memorial Day, we give thanks and honor the memory of those who served our country, those who served our church and loved ones who have blessed our lives. Now, we have to live a life worthy of the gift that has been given to us. Three important things can happen when we remember those we have lost.
When we remember, we are filled with gratitude for all the blessings we have received. Each Sunday before Memorial Day, we take time to read a list of names of the members of our family of faith who have entered the Kingdom of Heaven in the past year. Looking over the list reminds me of the many grieving families I have talked with this year. Whenever I do a funeral service, I like to sit down with the family. We visit for an hour or two and I encourage the family to reminisce about their loved one. During this time, there are tears and laughter as they began sharing memories about the loved one who has died. Invariably, as we visit, people begin sharing from their heart and they talk about all that this person did for them, how they sacrificed, how they helped. It’s a time of grieving and gratitude as they remember their loved one and what they did for them. It’s important to take time to remember because it helps you grieve.
When we take time to remember, it also allows us to forgive. It is hard to be alive and embrace life with a heart full of anger. Our relationships aren’t perfect. No matter who your loved one is, it isn’t all good times. There is a lot of hurt in our lives; that’s a part of loving. When you take the time to remember, you’re able to confront the hurt; forgiveness isn’t about forgetting. It doesn’t make light of what has been done to you, but rather forgiveness is about deciding to let it go! It’s a conscious choice. It doesn’t mean that what happens is unimportant; it’s not about forgetting; it’s about choosing to let go.
When we take the time to remember, it will lead to new beginnings. If you go back to the sixth book of the Bible, you will read where the first line says, “Now after the death of Moses…” Moses had led the people of Israel out of Egypt through the wilderness to the edge of the promised land, and there he died. It was now time for a new story, a new chapter; so Joshua leads them into the promised land. You come to the seventh book of the Bible, it says, “Now after the death of Joshua…” They come into the promised land, and they had settled; now it was time for a new chapter. When you come to the second book of Samuel, the first verse in the first chapter says, “Now after the death of Saul….” It was understood that first you need to remember and grieve, but then you do move on; there is a new chapter, a new beginning.
This is what we come together to celebrate, the good news of eternal life and to know that our loved ones are with God in His kingdom. We give thanks for that good news, the promise of the resurrection, of new life. It isn’t just about our loved ones who died, it’s also about each of us right now choosing to have a new beginning. We have a responsibility to live our lives in a way that honors the gift of eternal life and that means we must remember and grieve, but also move toward new beginnings.