Memorial Day for most is a day to remember the lost, the family members who fought so hard for our country and our freedom. It is a day to remember those who are still fighting for us at this very moment. For me, it is something very different. It is a day that I always remember what I had.
About 17 years ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday. It is so hard to think it was that long ago. I was at a Boy Scout camp away from home when my troop master pulled me aside after breakfast and had told me that my grandfather had passed away. Now, at that very young age, death was merely a concept that I didn’t fully grasp, all that I knew was that I wasn’t able to say good bye to my grandfather one last time. My grandfather fought for 8 years with diabetes and had finally lost the fight that day. I remember running into my cabin and up into my bunk, all of my troop mates looking at me, knowing already what I had just found out. For a mere second, I got angry that they all knew what was going on. But nonetheless, I went up into my bed and cried. Crying that I wasn’t going to see my grandfather, crying that I was so far away from home when something like this happened.
Two days later, I had what I now consider, an honor, to receive the American flag from the soldier that was giving it to me during my grandfather’s funeral. At the time, I had no concept of what that meant, but now, I look back on that and wish I would have fully understood how powerful that scene was. What later transpired was one of the most memorable events that I have ever witnessed in my young life at the time. To see and hear the 21 gun salute, till this day makes me tear up. I can still vividly see and hear exactly what happened. And to remember, that at the time, I was so naive to it all, that I went and picked up the bullet shells after they were done and kept them in a zip lock bag until I graduated high school.
But, this story is really not all about my grandfather’s death. No, it was more about his life and the life that I missed out on. You see my grandfather, being a Japanese American, got to fight in World War II, with the 442 Infantry. As we know, this was one of the most controversial and decorated group in the military back during the war. Back when I was younger, I knew that my grandfather had fought in the war, but as a young child, you never fully understand the magnitude of this and what it meant to him and my family. History, to me, in those younger years, was boring!!
As time has passed and I grew older, I majored in Social Studies in college and grew for a passion in history. And then I realized one Memorial Day in my early twenties, if I had known back then what I knew now about the 442 and Japanese Americans during the war, my relationship with my grandfather would have been so different. I always think to myself, “Gosh, I wish I was about twenty years old during the few years before my grandfather passed, or, I wish my grandfather was still alive so I could ask him about the war.” I think about the stories he could have told me, the adventures he would have had, what life was like as a Japanese American fighting for your country against people that are your own race. I would have hung on every word and I would have probably stayed up late with him begging him to tell me more. But, all I have is the stories of my grandmother and the history books.
So, as you go through Memorial Day, think about the friends and family that you have now. Are there people out there that you haven’t connected with, haven’t seen for a long time, maybe haven’t forgave? Maybe, you don’t have the best relationship with your parents because of past hurts. Maybe your marriage is hurting a little. Or maybe, life may be going well. Whatever the case, take the time today to reach out to those people that mean the most to you. Let them know you love them. Forgive the one you haven’t been able to forgive. Surprise your wife or husband and let them know how much you love them. You see, because for me, Memorial Day is so much more than just remembering those who fought for our freedom. It is remembering that I let time slip away in a relationship that I wish I could have back. Don’t let Memorial Day be a day you have to remember what could have been, let it be a day to remember what amazing things happened!
Until next time, be blessed and love like you never have!