Stick with me here. This one’s funny…
I know it’s customary to post in advance of a holiday or day of remembrance, but some things you just have to wait for.
We’re in the process of moving into a new dwelling this summer, and this weekend, we’re painting one of the bedrooms. But we made time to assemble today with other people at the flag pole in our new community to honor and pay our respects to those who have given their lives in service of this country. It is Memorial Day and as far back as I can remember, this day of remembrance resonated with me. Mom always sang the National Anthem at the Memorial Day service that followed the parade in our hometown. And I was always there to watch her. In all my adult years, whether in my hometown or not, I manage to find a ceremony to attend on this day.
Today was no different, so hubby and I headed over to the flagpole. We met a few new folks, shook hands, exchanged some pleasantries and sat down for what would be a twenty-minute ceremony. It’s a small community we’re moving to, so there were maybe thirty people present. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) sang “God Bless America” and recited “The Pledge of Allegiance.”
I love when everyone sings and recites. I feel the power of the words we’re singing and saying when we do it together. It’s a good thing, especially these days, to be reminded we’re all in this together. Community is important. And a diverse community that assembles for a common good is especially important.
A nice sounding gentleman, a bit small in stature, rose to recite an opening prayer. I’ve no idea what mix of faiths were present, but everyone bowed their heads and listened and either nodded or said “Amen” or whatever it was that resonated with them. The gentleman then went on to read something he had hand written, especially prepared for this day and this audience. He told the history of Memorial Day and the various other similar days of remembrance that pay honor to our military. He spoke of the sacrifices of those who were killed in action as well as those who were sent home due to medical issues and suffered for days, weeks, or years afterwards until they passed from their illnesses or (for those with PTSD and various mental challenges after being in the service) those who took their own lives.
It was such a solemn story he told that there were many tears shed by the audience. His words seemed to deeply resonate with everyone, so you can imagine the reaction from his audience when immediately after the last word he spoke . . .
. . . his pants fell down to his ankles.
You can’t make this stuff up. And you probably wouldn’t believe it if someone said it happened just like that. But, it did. Just exactly like that.
Everyone burst out in hysterical laughter–the mood suddenly so raucous, anyone driving by must have been shocked, knowing full well we were supposed to be honoring the dead. But we couldn’t help ourselves. It was such sweet relief after such a serious speech. The timing was impeccable. The sweet, little old lady standing next to me poked me in the arm and said, “God, I sure am glad he had underwear on!” I think I really lost it after that. I had tears in my eyes, but for the very best reasons. I doubt any of us will ever forget it.
The next part of the ceremony would be the playing of “Taps” on the bugle. When we pulled together our collective composure, we all looked over to the fella holding the bugle. He just shrugged and smiled, saying “I don’t know how the hell I’m supposed to top that!”
“Taps” still made me cry, as it does to most people, but afterwards, I couldn’t help but think about the solemn moment that turned into robust laughter, and the robust laughter that led the way to tears again.
It got me thinking . . .
It’s so important to have both of those things in our lives. The tears. The laughter. Each reminds us of how important the other is. They are the flip sides of the same coin. Death humbles us, lets us know we shouldn’t take anything or anyone for granted. That we should live and love fully if we have a chance to do so.
Death isn’t some finite thing that once we’ve experienced it with a loved one, is the end of it all for us too. Sadness isn’t some finite thing that once experienced, will never leave us. Life and laughter are a nanosecond away, ready and waiting to reset the moment, ready to give us the balance we need to live, laugh and love, to approach each day with a sense of hope, kindness, and empathy.
I love this unpredictable world we live in. It was a moment like this one today that had the power to make me feel this way. I may not have been feeling the love as often as I’d like in recent years, but today I feel it. I’m damned grateful for being alive today. And I’m damned grateful to the selfless men and women who made it possible for me to still be living in a country that allows me more freedoms than most countries do. I don’t take that for granted. I think we need to do our part to make sure this country always keeps its balance, that it remains hopeful, kind, and empathetic to everyone living within its borders. We are a community. We need each other.
And thanks for the gift of laughter, God. We definitely needed that!
(Just for the record, the nice gentleman whose trousers decided to go south on him quickly reassured us he happened to be wearing bicycle pants underneath, since he planned on going to the gym immediately after the ceremony. But the “damage” was already done… laughter had already run rampant. He was laughing too, so no harm done!)
God bless us all,
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