For most of us, Memorial Day has become an occasion for sleeping in, gathering with family and friends to eat, drink, and be merry, and enjoy a day off work floating in the pool. In reality, it’s a day set apart to honor men and women who gave their lives in service for our country.
My grandfathers both served in the military, and are truthfully best honored on Veterans Day. I am grateful for their service and heart. We enjoy freedom and abundance in our great country because of their sacrifice – and the ultimate sacrifices of so many other courageous individuals, past and present.
What I’m most grateful for is the legacy my grandfathers created even after their years of military service.
These were men that committed their lives to serving others – my Granddad Davis through a lifetime of Christian ministry as a Methodist pastor with dazzling people skills, and my Grandpa Toenjes through his leadership in industry, serving daily in the Catholic church and community, and performing great music well into his 90s.
Along with my grandmothers, they raised my parents and my parents’ siblings well. They instilled in them deep faith, a sense of responsibility for serving and honoring others, and strong work ethic. All character strengths I believe are becoming lost arts. (I am on that pivotal xennial border – right between Gen X and millenials, thriving in a world of technology but dumbfounded by the millenial mentality of “me-focused” living.)
My grandparents lived their lives with honor and commitment to core values of faith, family, and service. They impacted the world and left a legacy in their own unique way. They had 80 or 90 or maybe even 100 years or more to do it. I have them in heaven (and one still so wonderfully here) to honor.
I also have a son who left his own unique legacy, but he had just 17 days to do it. And now I have him in heaven to honor too.
There are so many stories of theirs to tell. But I think the greatest way to honor their lives is to live my own life well.
My life is my own, and my purpose is unique, just like theirs, and just like yours. The time we have here is brief. That awareness makes my heart beat faster and propel me forward toward my purpose every day. Our grandparents and parents gave us the very best they could so that we could go further than they did. (Perhaps for you this person might be a mentor or surrogate parent rather than a relative.)
There are lessons my grandparents taught – through sermons, through service, through family – that I want to embody to honor them, by living my life well just as they did.
And there are lessons my son is still teaching me that I want to personify to make him proud. With every fiber of my being, I want to honor him. He only had a few days to accomplish his purpose here. God willing, I have the long rest of my life.
Being exceptional humans ourselves is the highest honor we can give these people.
Who has gone before you?
What of their character do you admire? What of their marriages, of the way they raised their children, of they way they served others and their communities? (Our greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbors. We don’t live in a vacuum – we’re all interconnected.)
What good can you take from their lives and make even more impactful through your own?
This Memorial Day, I pray your heart is full as you honor the men and women you love who gave their lives in service to our country.
I hope you also enjoy a moment or two to honor the special people in your life who came before you. Those individuals who helped shape your beliefs and character, and lived in a way that inspires you to be who you are. Set your mind on how you want to live your life in ways that will make them proud.
Grab a scoop of ice cream and enjoy a little nostalgia this holiday weekend.
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.