Memorial Day is celebrated by many Americans as a remembrance and thank you to those men and women who served in the military. For those without any military connections, it takes the form of what used to be referred to as Decoration Day. In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday as declared by Congress.
For my family, the holiday has been observed as declaration day. Each year, flowers are placed at the gravesites of relatives, from grandparents to mothers, fathers, and siblings – including my brother, Stephen.
Stephen died in 2000 at the young age of 37. The circumstances were tragic. His early passing was due to drug addiction and a fatal overdose. He left three small children behind and his unexpected death shattered family, friends, and co-workers. But in the years that followed, something remarkable happened.
Each year, our mother lays flowers at the graves of our paternal grandparents and that of our dad, who are all interred in the same memorial park. Stephen’s crypt is around the corner, at the very top of the mausoleum. The location can’t be accessed without a ladder, but flowers are always placed there. We have no knowledge of who this person or persons might be. Mom visits the graves several times a year, and the result is always the same – flowers adorn Stephen’s grave.
It’s a mystery that means a great deal to us. Someone whom we assume knows us, makes a special effort to climb a ladder two stories high and leave a remembrance to a son, brother, father, husband, uncle, and friend whose life ended far too soon. Their gesture reminds us that Stephen’s life impacted others in more ways than we could possibly imagine.
This holiday is about the remembrance of those that we have loved and recalling how their lives touched us. Happy Memorial Day.