I was sorting through some old photos on my computer today and something popped up asking me if I’d like to look at a memory. It was a series of pictures from a trip with my family, and at the end of the scroll it gave me three options of what to do with the photos, one of which was, “Block Memory.”
This simple command option led me to ask myself what memories I would block, if only I had the power to do so. A few came filtering in and out that I wouldn’t mind erasing completely … but then, if I did, the lesson and the growth that came out of the hurt would be erased too – and would that not lead me to need to learn it again in some other way? Through some other hurt memory-to-come?
A few photos later, and I fell upon a recent one of one of my most-favorite people … Larry. I met Larry first as the grandfather to one of my students, then as the husband to one of my co-workers, and now, as simply one of my dearest friends. As a Naval Vietnam Veteran, he is one of the only people I am willing to talk politics with, because he has earned my respect, and doesn’t judge me for what I don’t know … and in turn has been honest enough with me to forgive himself for what he didn’t know then. That is a man with perspective; that is a man whose thoughts I want to hear.
Blocking a memory … ironic that it came up on Memorial Day of all things. I wonder what soldiers wouldn’t give to choose the blessing of erasure? I wonder if it is the lies, or the truth that hold so many of their minds captive? How can we, as an American public not thank them for carrying that burden of memories for us? How can we not acknowledge the gift of not having to follow orders we are uncertain of or decisions we aren’t forced to make. How can we celebrate freedom in good consciousness without first considering the price of the scars branded on those who paid the cost?
It has been 151 years of Memorial Days, and I fear that too many of us have replaced a day of gratitude for lives lost, with gratitude for a day off of work … a day to see friends … a day to block our memories from anything but enjoying a free day. Please don’t let today slip past without thanking someone who has helped maintain our country’s liberty.
So thank you veterans.
Thank you for answering the call to protect and to serve.
Thank you for paying the debts of a nation with your days, your years, and your lives.
Thank you for holding back the haunting questions of “What might have been,” had you not been brave enough to stand guard.
Thank you for continuing to honor the nation we so easily scoff at, argue over, and neglect.
Thank you for silencing your voices – your individual opinions to give us the right to hear ourselves speak … even when we have no idea what we’re saying.
Thank you for not blocking your memories, painful and raw as they are … for I know it is in the harboring of these memories that you keep us safe from what only a soldier knows.