Surrounded by pitch black, darkness and a bone chilling cold we somberly walked down the dimly lit pathway toward the black, granite wall where his name was inscribed. Shining eerily in the darkness were glow sticks dotting the walkway and carried by attendees. The respectful silence was pierced only by the amplified booming of full names, slowly being read aloud into the night air. We would take our place on the stage, to read aloud the honored names that preceeded and followed that of Lt. John H. Carson. Over the next 60 plus hours, 57,939 names would be lifted from The Wall and sent via sound waves into the memories of those there and the cosmos itself.
This was the 10 Year Anniversary celebration of the Vietnam Memorial in 1992, and it was the first of dozens of visits that I have taken to the Wall on the Mall in Washington D.C.
Memorials are an important part of every culture. Memorials help us to remember the sacrifice of brave soldiers, the valuable contributions of an important public figure, the life well lived of a great leader or unforgotten hero. Statues, momuments and memorials challenge us to remember the value of a person or event.
Memorial – from the Latin word, “memos” means “mindful”, and that is the task of a memorial, to present us with being mindful of the past and the costs that have brought us to this point.
Scripture is strong in it’s references to memorials, remembrances, and ancient landmarks. We are challenged to make certain days a memorial, remember certain people’s actions as a memorial, wear certain priestly accessories as a memorial, build a pile of rocks as a memorial, give money as a memorial, eat bread and drink wine as a memorial and to not remove ancient landmarks because they are to be a memorial for all generations.
Memorials serve an important role in our lives and in culture, and we would do well to pay attention to them in these 4 ways – these are my 4 R’s.
RESPECT – every memorial, no matter it’s origin or intention, should be respected. It is there to commemorate something honored and sacred by someone. Whether or not I understand, or even agree with it or the reason, it is incumbent upon me to be respectful around it, to it and to those who are paying or who have paid their respects to it.
REMEMBER – Each memorial is set to remind us of someone or something. Stop and remember it. If you don’t know about it or the person, look it up, read up, understand why it is there. Remembering is vital for the success of any society. Remembering does no real harm to us but it does honor the one or event that it represents. In the event there is “harm” by remembering, let it lead you to the next R.
REFLECT – A reflection is light that bounces off of an object. When we choose to reflect at memorials, light will shine and bounce back on us. This light may cause “harm”, sadness, maybe even anger, but let the light shine on you, your memories, feelings, emotions and allow that light to make YOU a stronger, wiser and more understanding person. Allow your reflection to make a difference, even if only in you. Reflection is intended make us better, and our society stronger, then we can reevaluate, make changes and move on to R number 4.
RENEW – Everything that happens does so for a reason and that reason will generally benefit us in the long term. When we honor a memorial and allow ourselves to reflect, we cannot help but renew our commitment to the passion stirred by that memorial. Memorials galvanize our renewed drive toward an honorable and valiant cause. We are stirred, we are renewed by the statememts that memorials make. Our spirit is renewed because of memorials.
There are ancient landmarks, memorials and statues that are meant to stand for and through generations. It is the duty of every member of society to respect, remember, reflect and renew themselves in the honoring of these landmarks.
Whether it be a makeshift memorial at a grocery store in Buffalo, a flower in a granite reflecting pool in New York City, or the overwhelming awe that comes from standing at the foot of The Great Pyramid, memorials are a very important part of every culture.
May we be ones who give honor to whom honor is due and lead the way by example for so many others who don’t care, don’t know any better or fail to see the importance of memorials.
Cheers to you,