By: Dennis Bates
This past weekend the cemeteries were all mowed, the flags were all out and large crowds of people came to remember. Usually they remembered by placing flowers on the graves of loved ones or family members. Sometimes they remembered by bowing their heads briefly and giving thanks or by praying. I saw a few even kneel down.
We drove nearly 400 miles round trip to decorate the graves of my wife’s family and put a few flowers on graves. As we laid flowers on her father’s grave, I couldn’t help notice the American flag and the other marker that indicated her father had served in WWII. He was an infantryman who marched all the way from the tip of Italy to the other end seeing action in some of the fiercest fighting in that campaign.
Even though he served bravely and admirably, he refused to talk about the campaign in any detail. All he would say was that it was horrible and he didn’t want to ever go through anything like that again. Still he did it because he saw it as his duty.
Both my mother and my father served in WWII, my father in the infantry in the South Pacific and my mother in the Navy working in Washington DC. She wouldn’t talk about her experiences either because she worked a top secret project that she had never been told was declassified. Even though it has been by now, she was never given permission to talk about it, so she didn’t, even though her 11 grandchildren tried constantly to get her to say what she had done.
The one thing she did talk about was her fear that after our generation that they did would be forgotten. She always placed flowers on graves to remember, even those who hadn’t served in the war. She asked my wife once, “Who will remember once you’re gone? Who will put the flowers out?”
As I looked at the people putting flowers out last weekend, I noticed that my wife and I might have been some of the youngest people in the cemetery, and we are in our 60’s. There weren’t a lot of young people, and that made my mother’s question echo even louder. It worried me because the same lack of youth can be seen in a lot of churches these days.
When we are gone, who will remember why we have churches, why those we honored in the cemeteries gave their lives? Who?
Then as I pondered that question sitting in our usual pew Sunday, the collection plate was passed and just before it got back to us, I heard a commotion and saw the usher stop and hold the plate lower. A young man who couldn’t have been older than five hurried toward the usher. The young man had a look of total concern on his face, and then he reached out his tightly closed fist and dropped a quarter into the collection plate. When he did that he looked up at the usher and said simply, “Thank you.”
A five year old thanked the usher for waiting so he could give, not take. And he did so politely with a look of genuine gratitude on his face.
I couldn’t help think the at least this young man would remember. I hope there are thousands more like him because we should never forget.
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