Memorial Day

Hebrews 12:1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us . . .”

Reflection by Anthony B. Robinson

It is said that no one can hold back the river of time, and that is true. Time does rush on. But we can build bridges across the rushing river, and today — Memorial Day — is one.

First known as “Decoration Day,” Memorial Day began as a day to honor the Union dead after the Civil War. Following World War I it became a day for remembering all those who had died in our nation’s wars. And from there it has broadened further, so that now Memorial Day is for remembering all who have died.

When death comes there is an interruption of life as usual. But often things get back to normal—or it seems that they are supposed to—too quickly following a death. Here the Buddhists are wise, holding a service to honor the deceased every 7 days for forty-nine days, allowing a lengthier period of mourning.

Though we may resume normal activities after a funeral service, we don’t really get over the loss of a loved one that quickly—nor should we. Grief takes time, time that a too-busy society is often reluctant to give. So a special day for grief, remembrance and honor — Memorial Day — is a gift.

Still, we contemporary Americans receive this gift with ambivalence. As with other holidays that once stood alone on a fixed date, Memorial Day is now part of a three-day weekend, making it more a mini-vacation than a dedicated holy day of remembrance.

How will you “keep” Memorial Day today? Perhaps you have customs you’d like to share on Facebook?

Here are a couple of suggestions for keeping Memorial Day. Write a note or make a call to a person who has experienced a death recently, letting them know you are thinking of them and remembering the one they have lost. Take a few minutes sometime today to sit quietly and reflect on the way that death has touched your life this year, naming in prayer those who have died. Write on a card the names of those in your family or church who have died recently, or those in your family or church who have served in past wars. Put the card on your mantle or kitchen counter with a flower.  Lift up in prayer those who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their loved ones. Put fresh flowers on a grave, maybe the grave of someone you know or, if that’s not an option, any grave.

Today is a day to walk across a bridge of memory and hope.


We remember before you, O God, those who have gone before us in this life and their sacrifices on our behalf. (You can speak names here.) We honor them and thank you for the gift of their lives to us all. Amen.

About the Author
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of the just-published Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at by clicking on Weekly Reading.