Memorial Day may be a good day to examine your feelings about people who lived in days gone by.

Memorial Day marks the official opening of summer and Labor Day marks the official end to summer. Cookouts, swimming, family get-togethers, and time off from work are typical for both holidays. But is there more to these holidays than that?

If we were very realistic and honest, we would probably need to admit that narcissism, hedonism and materialism play a strong role in our culture. In other words, “What’s in it for ME?” “If it feels good, do it!” “And more, more, we want more!” are oppressive thoughts for many of us. The surface level, rootlessness that is produced by these focuses leaves us feeling empty, less satisfied, and thinking “There’s GOT to be more to life than this!”

I would be the first to agree. Well, what can we do about it? Let’s start now, with this next holiday, Memorial Day. Let’s learn more about it, why we celebrate it and then go from there. Okay?

The History of Memorial Day goes something like this. It was first celebrated May 30, 1868. Observance was paid by placing flowers on the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Micheal came up with the idea of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war.

Memorial Day Trivia

On Memorial Day, the flag should be at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff. Red Poppies are recognized as the Memorial Day flower. "Taps" is often played at ceremonies on this day. Flowers and Flags are the two most popular items people use to remember soldiers and family members who have passed on. The south refused to honor the dead on this day until after World War I when the meaning of Memorial Day changed from honoring Civil War dead to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. In 1971, Memorial Day was moved from a fixed holiday (May 30th) to the last Monday of May to create a long weekend.

What is the National Moment Remembrance Resolution? In 2000 the National Moment Remembrance Resolution passed. At 3 pm on Memorial Day all Americans are asked to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect by pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to taps.

Memorial Day is a day for us to remember! Why should we bother to remember? Why is it so important? I hear people say, “Don’t live in the past!” “Forget the things which are behind and press toward a new mark!” I agree to a point, but feel that it’s very important to balance that thinking. Let’s start with this simple truth that we sit in the shade today because someone, sometime ago planted a tree.

Memorial Day may be a good day to examine your feelings about people who lived in days gone by. Some of those people may not go down in history books - known by many, and they may have passed on a long time ago or recently. Nevertheless, they are loved ones whose lives you can learn about, show respect, appreciate, pay honor to and celebrate. Valuable lessons can be learned from the past and your ancestors.

My hope is by extending this special day to create a long weekend that especially on this special day the purpose of honoring and reflecting will not be forgotten. May you make the effort to know your ancestors and show them honor and respect. One day you will be pushing up planted red poppies hoping someone remembers and pays you homage. Your spirit will be hoping their grief and loss is about you and that they love you.

One last thought is that Freedom isn’t free. On this Memorial Day let us honor those who have fought for our freedoms. Some have died that many others and we might be free. May you appreciate your precious time made possible in many ways by those who have died before! Also appreciate your own time on this earth.

John T. Catrett, III serves as a Chaplain with ONHL Hospice. ONHL Hospice currently provides services to the majority of northeastern Oklahoma but is available to accept patients statewide. Learn more at http://onhlhospice.com.