As you’ve probably heard about a thousand things in recent days, life looks a little different right now, and one of those things that’s going to look very different from past years is Memorial Day on Monday. It’s the day that we in the US have set aside to honor and mourn the men and women of the military who died while serving. It’s something we’ve done ever since 1868. Typically we celebrate it with big picnics, fireworks and parades, not to mention all the American flags that are hung or placed everywhere. This year it looks different because we’re not doing big gatherings of any kind, like the people of Australia and New Zealand did for their remembrance day (Anzac Day) back in late April, we’ll be staying home. Some towns have already said there’s a specific moment that sirens will go off, or suggested other ways that from the safety of our homes we can honor those who died.
I agree that it’s important to visibly show our appreciation and support for the men and women of the military, both past and present, dead and alive. But I think this year’s different celebrations will be an important opportunity to recognize that this is really a very serious and somber event, not something we really should be celebrating. No, we’re not celebrating that people are dead, but celebrating them for the life they lived, the life they gave up for all of us. But as much as we’re celebrating their life, it is a holiday recognizing their death and great sacrifice.
Parts of life are serious and sad, it’s something that we’re seeing as a world right now as we fight this virus. It’s never easy to process that, or explain it to kids. There aren’t boundaries or limits or rules on grieving and sadness, it’s not something you can put away in a closet and pretend isn’t there. It pops up at random times and without warning, it may be a short time that’s needed for processing or it may be a strong presence with you for the rest of your life. Sometimes the right thing is to laugh and other times the right thing is to be quiet and cry.
While I do normally encourage you to celebrate by gathering with many others to show your pride and support for our men and women of the military, this weekend I encourage you to reflect on the tragedy that this day really speaks to. Talk with your kids about how some families don’t get to reunite with their soldier and why their lives matter so much. Talk about processing grief and why it’s OK to cry and struggle with some of the incomprehensible aspects of life. Show them that even when it’s tough we can support each other so that no one has to cry or struggle alone. How will you be honoring our men and women of the military who gave their lives this weekend?
We’re heading into the holiday season, which always brings opportunities to celebrate and end the year right even if the rest of the year hasn’t been so great. But the holidays can be challenging if you’re having family troubles, or if you just moved and are in a new location and don’t know anyone, or if you’ve got a sick family member, or if you’ve lost someone. One of my grandmothers’ birthdays was this month, we lost my grandfather several years ago right after Christmas, and a client lost a family member last month, so I understand that the holidays can be difficult for people. It’s a mixed bag to experience the holidays as time and life changes and share stories about family members you’ve lost and enjoyed celebrating the holidays with, or if you’re alone or not well.
From the earlier years the holidays have always included some downside, from struggling pilgrims, coal in stockings, and long distances to travel while pregnant, so the holidays haven’t ever been just about joy. However, they have been about community and sharing and coming together. Community and coming together happens in the good times and the not so good times, especially if we truly are invested in the people in our lives and that we share this world with. The reality of life is that it’s not all joy, that there will be some awesome years and other years where you’re thankful that you’re just all still there.
I think it’s healthy to have moments of sorrow even years after you’ve lost someone, if they meant something to you, you should never truly and completely get over their loss. But more important than having moments of sorrow, are sharing the moments and memories that you remember with those people, to share their recipes, to share their holiday traditions, to share their and your holiday stories, to read the stories that you all enjoyed together, to laugh over the mistakes and craziness, and make more memories so that will last even if you’re all separated by time or life.
Holidays are to be celebrated, both with the new and trendy celebrations of today and the older memories and traditions of the past. Encourage your kids to have times of reflection this holiday season as well as celebration and be reminded that it’s not just about the gifts or food. It’s often in those moments of sharing and passing on that we create our best and brightest memories.
This week we’re switching things around and the regular business post will be published on Friday this week, to give me the opportunity to share some more family and relationship focused reflections today. Today is 9/11. 18 years ago 4 planes were used in a terror attack that devastated the lives of all Americans and countless others around the world were also affected by the actions of people who had a hatred towards what the US represents or has done.
If I’m honest it’s not something I can really understand. I don’t have a hatred so deep of something or someone that I can understand the willingness to make a plan to kill thousands of people, let alone little children. I can’t imagine putting into action a plan that will definitely cause destruction, especially unknown destruction. I understand the concepts of controlled burns when it comes to fire prevention, or about sacrificing one structure to make sure the others around them, and the people in them, are safe. But I can’t understand the reasoning behind taking over planes and flying them into buildings where people live and work intentionally.
Each year we see footage and hear stories of the men and women who were there, of the fear they experienced, of their willingness to head into the zone even though they didn’t really know what they were heading into or what really happened. I can remember all those years ago seeing it on TV for the first time and not really believing it. But with report after report of loss of life and the many pictures and videos that were shown, I quickly knew that this was a reality and that not only had lives been lost but more men and women were putting their lives on the line for those who might be trapped. It hurts to know that even today not all of the families have gotten to give their lost loved ones a proper burial, that some never really got to say goodbye. It still hurts to know that people wanted to hurt people in this way.
But what I’ve been struck by today as I’ve watched some of the footage and read some of the stories of men and women who were killed or willingly put their lives on the line is about life. We don’t often stop to think about the over 20,000 people who were saved because the first responders did their job. We don’t think about their relief as they returned to their firehouses and found their brothers and sisters of the heart who had returned as well. We don’t think about the gift of life that was given to people because people fought to bring the plane down over Pennsylvania instead of letting it get to the intended target. We don’t think about the boys and girls who are alive and now looking at their 18th birthday without a parent that they never knew.
But the fact is they’re alive and so are we. Yes, we should pause and grieve for the lives lost. They are people who will never live to grow old or spend time with their families or have (more) kids or make an impact on the world in the way they thought they would. But they would not want their legacy to be one of hatred, anger or grief. Many gave their lives so we could be free and live our lives. Choose to support those who put their lives on the line then and still today. Choose to have hope for tomorrow. Choose to make the world we share a better place, a place that tragedies like 9/11 will be fewer and farther between. Choose to live today.
Today in the USA is one of the days during the year that we take time to remember. Today 9/11, we take time to remember the 4 attacks on September 11, 2001, 2 in NYC, one in Pennsylvania, and one at the Pentagon in Washington DC. We stop to remember the 2,977 people who died as a result of the actions of men and women who hated us. Although it’s been 17 years, for many of us it feels like just yesterday. Most of us can remember exactly where we were when it happened. For countless people around the world we have a personal connection to someone who died that day.
We hear the stories from those who were in and around NYC or the Pentagon and helped rescue countless others. We also hear the stories of the people they knew intimately who died while saving lives or just living their lives. We don’t hear the stories from the people in Pennsylvania because they didn’t survive but instead gave their lives to save many others, in some ways making them the biggest heroes of that tragedy.
It’s not fun to remember 9/11 or the days that followed as we came to understand the seriousness of what happened, but it is important. The US was forever changed by the actions of those who hated us that day, in ways that it hadn’t been touched previously. We remember those 2,977 people because they made a sacrifice that day most didn’t plan on or agree to make. We remember their families so they know they aren’t forgotten. We remember in hopes of creating a tomorrow someday that doesn’t include the fear of similar events happening and families don’t have to go through similar pain.
I encourage you to take time to remember today. Remember those you’ve lost and remember those who have touched your life but aren’t part of it anymore, and take time to give thanks for them and the life you have today.
The month of October makes people think about things like death and fears. They’re not easy topics to talk about or think about, but all of us are affected by them. Some people have fears that become debilitating, while others of us are mildly bothered by things that we call our fears. What I’m thinking about today though is in the family of the death topic, that of loss.
All of us experience losses over the course of our lives. We’ve heard stories of people and pets who pass away after they lose the person they loved. We’ve seen how drastically the loss of a person in our life because of divorce or separation or distance can negatively impact a person, maybe leading to destructive habits or depression. It’s funny because we’re so insistent upon doing things for ourselves and being able to stand on our own to feet, and yet we are so affected by the ties that bind us.
Unfortunately, with the way that life is right now we are faced with losses. We do get separated from our pets or loved ones or people who we may not really love any more but played a significant role in our lives for a period of time, that’s the reality of life. The question is what will you do after that loss? Will you choose to stop living because they do or because they’ve left you? Or will you choose to see that you’re more than that person, that you can learn from your time together, even appreciate it, and still be able to move on and keep living? Because I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have something they could contribute to the world. Everyone, regardless of age, health, location or any other factor, has the ability to make a difference in someone’s life. Yes, death and loss are painful, and we should take time to process that large change in our lives. But I can’t think of one situation that the other person would want you, or anyone, to give up on life. Loss is part of life’s journey, where your journey takes you is up to you.
I hate that another week started out with bad news, that another individual has taken it upon themselves to hurt and kill others, that once again we’re a nation in pain and dealing with the loss of life. Most people woke to the news of a shooting in Las Vegas on Monday morning, but when I went to bed it had just happened and very little was known (I’m a serious night owl in this season of my life). I thought it would just be a few people who were hurt and killed, but was greatly saddened to find out how many people were impacted in this tragedy. I know that you’ve probably been reading about it on countless blogs, newsletters and news sites since it happened, so you may not want to read another perspective on it, so if not I encourage you to keep the families in your thoughts and prayers, and if you’re in the Las Vegas area to donate blood. But if you’re still processing and want to reflect with me, let’s talk about tragedy.
What I knew when I turned off my computer on Monday morning was that another person chose violence towards others. Without even trying hard I could list a dozen or two issues (or more) in the world that need fixing or attention. There are so many pressing problems that the world deals with and then there are the issues that we deal with in our own lives that may seem small by comparison, but still take up space in our minds and stress us out. So it boggles my mind that someone would choose to pick up a gun (or whatever their preferred method of violence is) and use killing as their message delivery system, and what they choose to do with the rest of their life. It’s a reminder to all of us that there are people in the world who need help, and may hide behind a mask of normalcy for years before you ever see a crack.
But it’s also a reminder to us all that we are still alive. We can’t go back to Sunday morning and make everyone alive again, we can’t go back to when the man first had the idea to do something like this, we can only move forward. Already on Monday and in the days that are ahead you’ll hear more about gun control and security and related topics, and it’s not a bad idea to make sure that we’re really aware of the privilege it is to have guns and the responsibility that comes along with them. You can certainly tune in and see what develops in that area as well as the investigation, but my encouragement to you would be that you really think about the life you have. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t take the people in your life for granted. Celebrate each and every day with them. Live a life that fills you and fulfills you. Choose to make a positive difference for the next generation so they won’t experience tragedies like we’ve been seeing for the past several years in increasing numbers. Don’t let this tragedy only be a loss of life, let it motivate you to live your life to the fullest.