Memorial Day weekend began Friday afternoon in a hospital room overlooking Lake Michigan as a friend and his dad got discharge papers and headed home to begin hospice care. While my friend was confirming the many details, I knelt down by his dad’s hospital bed, held his hand, and told him that I’m so grateful hospice will give him all the dignity and autonomy that the beast of cancer so rudely took away.
Saturday I was in another hospital room as a family said goodbye to their child. Their family is one of those families I wish everyone could have. Their strength and love for each other was contagious, and they gave their child the sacred, generous gift of a beautiful death. HIPAA prevents me from going into detail here, but imagine the most precious child, devoted siblings, strong parents, and adoring grandparents you can going through the hell of childhood illness with nothing but grace.
Later Saturday I held a mother as she watched a brilliant medical team use every life saving machine and medication possible to preserve her child.
At the conclusion of our church’s worship service Sunday, we walked to the memorial garden to remember those who selflessly served and serve our country, and those who have joined the church triumphant.
On Monday I was at my parents’ house and had Mom’s favorite breakfast from Panera before going through more of her clothes, jewelry, and shoes. I divided her things into various piles of stuff I will keep, things to gift to friends, and things to donate to one of the shelters where she worked in development. And not that I’ve started to forget at all, but smelling her scent on her clothes brought back even more great memories of the sassy woman I miss so much.
Amid the piles of memories, all the cookouts and lake houses I missed out on this weekend suddenly seemed less important. There will be other weekends for grilling, boating, and watching new Arrested Development, and no doubt I will need one soon. But as the memories flooded and the faces of all I encountered this Memorial Day weekend ran though the side-show in my head, I realized I spent the weekend doing all the all the appropriate things. For what better way to spend a weekend dedicated to remembering than to ensure others aren’t alone in death and celebrating memories of lives so well lived.
As I remembered, I gave thanks for amazingly strong people and begged that God comfort those whose memories are not enough. And my favorite Elie Wiesel quotation was on repeat in my head. “What is a witness if not someone who has a tale to tell and lives only with one haunting desire: to tell it. Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.
After all, God is God because he remembers.”