Memorial Day for many people still is a day of sadness, a day to remember loved ones who were lost to them in times of war. Lives cut short in their prime. For me Memorial Day is a day to give thanks that I was fortunate not to have lost my son in a war.
This is my son. At 17, he informed me he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He had considered college, but each subject he was interested in would have left him unemployable afterwards. His dream had been to have a dual degree in Anthropology and Archeology, but after talking to professors found he would only make money if he taught, which was not what he wanted.
He informed me he wanted to go in the military instead. This was my worst nightmare as a mother. I had grown up during the Vietnam era, I watched a neighbor collapse when she answered the door to hear one of her twin boys had died, screaming to know which one. I was in elementary school at the time, but the pain and anguish I saw that day has never left me. I wasn’t ready to hear this myself, I just wasn’t prepared. Selfish, probably. But the way I saw it I had spent 17 going on 18 years raising my son and wanted him to have the opportunity to be an adult.
I had wanted to see my son grow old and out-live me. I wanted to see him raise his own family. Mostly, I wasn’t ready to face the possibility that his life might be cut short before he was even old enough to drink. I kept thinking that it was wrong to give birth to a child, and watch his life be cut short before he was ever able to experience anything other than childhood.
Nearly two months after his 18th birthday I said goodbye to my son as he left for boot camp. This was in October of 2002, there was already the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and talk of going into Iraq. I was spared briefly by a letter telling me that he would not be going to war as he was selected for the Army’s Honor Guard and would be stationed in Washington D.C.
Unfortunately, a year later he would be deployed, the first for the Honor Guard since Vietnam. He came home in one piece, thankfully. He suffered from the things he saw, but was able to deal with it after a period of time.
Today, my son is well-adjusted, and is married with two small children. He has a good steady job and is writing in his spare time. I got my dream of seeing what he would do with his adulthood.
This Memorial Day I will have my entire family with me. My youngest son and his family will be coming up, with his brother they have three small children, so we will be taking the kids to the playground and having a picnic. Nothing big, just time together, but it’s so much more than many others will have this weekend and I won’t forget how blessed I am, or how much others have lost.
Monday while I am surrounded by family, I will remember those who have lost theirs. It’s not a time for shopping, it’s a time to reach out to those who have lost loved ones, and hold close the loved ones in your life. It’s a day to be thankful for the sacrifice of others that may have saved your family member.