It's difficult to fathom the impact the Civil War had on American life. Between 1861 and 1865, there were over 10,000 battles and engagements. The Battle of Gettysburg alone resulted in 51,000 casualties. By the time the war was over, it's estimated that there were around 620,000 casualties from combat, starvation, and disease. Until the Vietnam War, more soldiers had died in the Civil War than in all foreign wars combined.
So it's no surprise that a big part of post-war rebuilding would be remembering the losses that impacted every American. On May 30, 1968, America instituted Decoration Day. This was a day to remember the fallen by decorating their graves. In 1971, it was decided that this would become an official federal holiday. Congress established an annual Memorial Day on the last Monday of May.
Typically, Americans observe Memorial Day by holding family gatherings, visiting cemeteries, and watching parades. But here are some suggestions for Christians to observe an impactful and meaningful Memorial Day.
1. Pray for service members
The primary focus of Memorial Day is on memorializing service members who have died while serving in the U.S. military, but it's a good time to spend prayer focused on all service members.
Here are a few ideas for a prayer focus:
- Pray for the safety of men and women currently serving around the globe.
- Pray for the many former service members who are suffering from PTSD, homelessness, and other challenges.
- Pray that both those currently serving and those whose service is over have an opportunity to discover the love of Jesus.
2. Discuss lost family members
Whether it's in this or previous generations, many of us have lost family members who were in the military. It's good to spend time remembering them, looking at pictures, and talking about their stories. This is particularly poignant if you have children in your family as it provides an opportunity for a history lesson and a deeper connection to their family tree.
This time of sharing could mean phoning or Facetiming family members to share memories and stories. Memorial Day can be a profound time to bring a family together to reminisce about loved ones who cannot be with us anymore.
Maybe you have someone in your family who was in the Vietnam or Gulf Wars. If they're comfortable, Memorial Day can be a meaningful time for them to share stories of friends and comrades that they served with and may have lost.
3. Handwrite letters or cards
For the loved ones of lost service members, Memorial Day can be rough. While you're spending time remembering those who have been lost, why not write a quick note to someone who is grieving on this day?
It's extremely meaningful for a parent, spouse, or child to hear that others remember the people they've lost. The knowledge that there are others who miss your loved one too can be incredibly healing—especially if years or decades have passed.
Memorial Day is valuable
War is an outcome of mankind’s fallen nature. Memorial Day is not only an important time to remember those we’ve lost to conflict, but also to look forward to a time when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain ..." (Revelation 21:4).
Make an intentional plan to spend your Memorial Day remembering those you may have lost, reaching out to others who have lost loved ones, and looking forward to a time when we won't have to deal with painful loss.
He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken (Isaiah 25:8).
Leave us a comment and tell us about your favorite way to commemorate Memorial Day.