In Memoriam

I spend the morning with my children at the cemetery. The high school band played, the mayor placed a wreath at the war memorial, and servicemen, including a veteran of Pearl Harbor, spoke to us. We bought red paper poppies to pin to our shirts.

We didn’t talk about Memorial Day in sacrament meeting yesterday. The only mention was that the scouts would be placing flags on lawns.

It seems that we should want to remember and honor those who have fought and fallen in our worship services. How many times in the Book of Mormon are the people exhorted to remember and always retain a remembrance of the the faith of their forefathers and the mercies God has shown to them?

I am not a huge fan of the war chapters of the Book of Mormon; I’m not terribly interested in battles and strategy in general. But I do love the passion of Captain Moroni and his bold and heartfelt reminder to the people that there are things worth fighting for: our God, our freedom, our religion, our peace and our families. I love the sincere repentance of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, their abandonment of war, even to the point of death. Their story of non-violent acceptance is powerful and heartbreaking. I love that the Nephites took them in and protected them, sacrificing their lives for the new converts to their faith.

I remember these stories, and my heart breaks. I read about the trenches of World War I, and my heart breaks. My twelve year old son and I just read Maus by Art Spiegelman, and we talked about World War II, and the Holocaust, and Uncle Charlie who fought overseas there, who couldn’t bear to share many of his stories before he was lost to Alzheimer’s. We remember, and our hearts break. And every day I hear the news about insurgencies and bombings, civil wars and genocides and terrorism, I mourn our fallen state, where it seems we have become too good at hurting one another and destroying ourselves.

I don’t see any end to war, and that breaks my heart most of all. We can’t even overcome our petty everyday jealousies, our bickering and gossiping and minor spats. How can we end wars built on centuries of injury and offence between nations if we cannot live together peaceably in our own families and communities? I can only pray for Zion, for that great and terrible day of judgment and suffering, pray for forgiveness and redemption.

I remember with my broken heart, my heart that condemns me for my own bellicosity, and I thank God for all those who have served and sacrificed. Thank you, from one who is too often thoughtless and ungrateful. Thank you.

8 comments for “In Memoriam

  1. Thank you so much for this. I found it both insightful and touching. May we all strive ever harder to bring about the kingdom of the Prince of Peace.

  2. Uncle Charlie, my Uncle John, my Uncle George, my Uncle Raymond in WW II. My grandfathers Ellsworth King and James De Vors in WW I. My great greats who fought in the Civilnwar from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. And all the unnamed, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I would advise you, dear Sister, to lift up your heart and rejoice. This madness will end and there will be peace. If there’s one thing I know, a world without war is coming, as surely as God lives. And with any luck, you will see it arrive!

  4. As I visited the family graves this memorial day (decoration day) With my 90 year old father, I felt that he was the person we needed to honor . Drafted before World War II at age 19 he saw four years of combat in the Pacfic. PTS went untreated in his day. You just pushed on and dealt with things privately. After my mother’s death he cried ” Why was I allowed to live and have a wife and family when so many died?” You gave your life too Dad- the life and person you could have been in your happy gentle youth.

  5. I don’t get to visit any graves these days because I live across the country from where my family members are buried. My father and my uncle were both veterans of WWII and both, coincidentally, fought in the Battle of the Bulge. At my father’s funeral, I held it together the entire day until the military detail handed my mother a folded American flag. That I will remember forever.

  6. *It seems that we should want to remember and honor those who have fought and fallen in our worship services. *

    And some people complain that our worship services are somnolent!

    Kidding aside, very nice post.

  7. My family didn’t understand why Uncle John could not stand to hear a rifle shot after returning from WWII. They treated with mystical reverence the fact that he asked no one to touch him while he slept, out of his fear that he would kill the person who tried to wake him if he was dreaming about the war. He came home with a bronze star, a silver star and a purple heart. When asked about the medals, he usually wept. “I couldn’t let them hurt my brothers” was all that he once said. It was enough for me.

    WWII ended in 1945. But Uncle John’s nightmares raged for the last 62 years of his life. Five years ago, just before he died, his last request was that there would be no military salute fired at his graveside. “I’ve heard enough gunfire in my life. What I want now is peace.”

    Uncle John, I pray you have found the peace you craved.

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