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Mary's Musings - Evolving Views on Memorial Day

Editor’s Note: In a nod to our Presbyterian heritage, we regularly feature a column from a PMMA® chaplain in our newsletter. This month’s column comes from Mary Bridges, chaplain at Salina Presbyterian Manor®

By Mary Bridges, Chaplain

I must confess that Memorial Day was never my favorite holiday. Growing up, my family made our annual trek to the cemetery to deliver fresh peonies from my mom’s garden. That evening, we’d go back to pick them up.

As I grew older, I began to lose friends and family members — even our son. Visiting graves and offering remembrances still left me feeling sad and empty.

However, my view on Memorial Day has changed. To illustrate that, I want to tell you about my friend Mary Ellen from Menomonee Falls, Wis.

We became friends in 1999 while serving on a national women’s board. More importantly, we became prayer partners. Each day when I awoke, I visualized Mary Ellen on her treadmill, praying with me. Through 20 years, we prayed with each other through our ordinary days, through illnesses and the loss of loved ones.

In the midst of the pandemic, Mary Ellen was diagnosed with cancer. Her final Christmas letter in 2019 ended with these words from scripture: “Be strong and of good courage. Be not frightened or dismayed. For your God is with you wherever you go” from Joshua 1:9 and “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” from John 14:27. In April 2020, I received word that she had died.

That year, I felt that empty feeling on Memorial Day. I decided that I will always take my offering of remembrance to those who are no longer living, as I was raised to do. But then I will celebrate the people I dearly miss by reaching out to their loved ones to share the impact they had on my life.

Last year, I sent a letter to Mary Ellen’s family telling them how blessed I was to have known her and how her memory continues to sustain me. I invite you to join me in memorializing your loved ones by writing or phoning their family and friends and sharing how they affected your life. It has become my favorite way to celebrate Memorial Day.

To God be the glory!

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