Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Well, the college graduations are finishing up, reports of the high profile speeches make the rounds. The long Memorial Day weekend is now behind us. We got caught up in it, too. Ours was one of those quintessential American weekends.
We had a moving dose of patriotism in our worship on Sunday morning; and a compelling message about the importance of family. Then, that afternoon, just the two of us rode our bikes on a crowded beach trail, dodging skateboards, strollers, roller bladers, pedestrians on cell phones both talking and texting, other bikers and dogs on leashes. Somehow we kept our bikes upright. We finished off the day watching the sunset from the bluff on our beach chairs at Corona del Mar.
Then on Monday, a family day in the pool with grandkids – one of the best swimming pools in the world; with climbing rocks and waterfalls and diving platforms into clear, deep water. Apparently, the boys are hardwired at the level of DNA, taking dares and making the leap from every possible launch point with abandon. It’s built in, this need for death-defying thrills that make their mothers nervous. It’s who they are. But just before they jump, you hear one of the greatest phrases of all – “Watch this Grandpa!” And off he goes into outer space for a few spilt seconds of weightlessness before hitting the water with a noisy splash; but not until he knows I’m watching. And when he pops up with that look of triumph, I say, “High five!” And we do, right out there in the deep water, while dog paddling. I can’t think of a place I’d rather be on Memorial Day than in a pool with squealing grandkids pushing the envelope trying something new and courageous under a sunny sky with the smell of burgers coming off the BBQ.
Because I’m the oldest of the siblings, I am frequently asked to offer the prayer before we dig into the burgers, baked beans and salads. This year, I was reminded, “Don’t forget… it’s Memorial Day.” It’s always good to prompt old guys like me whose memory needs to be jolted now and then. So I had a couple of minutes to think it over as the clan was gathered into a circle and my brother offered an official welcome and we got caught up on the whereabouts of those who could not join us today. And that’s when it got to me – the awareness that ought to hit every Memorial Day – that we would not be enjoying this kind of afternoon in this kind of place were it not for many who laid down their lives for our freedoms.
And then I thought about the two in our extended family who did answer the call to serve: one who just completed his second tour in Iraq, a Marine named Barrett, and the other, the father of the little boy in the arms of his mother standing just beside me – an officer (First Lieutenant Tim) in command of a group of men and women in harm’s way on the other side of the globe as we gathered around the pool on a breezy Southern California day. And for those few moments it became very real – this sacrifice made by so many, like my nephew so far away, and his beautiful family right here with us, missing him.
So I was ready to pray. A prayer of gratitude. A prayer for protection. A prayer for peace.
And that’s what I did.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009