Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day celebrations

Memorial Day in the U.S. is celebrated on Monday, May 30th as the unofficial start to summer fun and festivities. It is a federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May and honors Americans who have died in all wars.

Memorial Day was once known as Decoration Day. It first began as a time to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War and was extended  to all who fought in the war as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation. The celebration was further extended after World War One to honor Americans who died in all wars.

Today, Memorial Day is set aside for more general expressions of memory as many families will visit the graves of their deceased relatives - military or civilian. It is a long weekend set aside for family get-togethers, fireworks, beach trips, and major sporting events liked the Indianapolis 500.

Here are two fitting poems for Memorial Day remembrance.

In Flanders Fields was written by John McCrae, a Canadian physician who fought on the Western Front in 1914 before he was transferred to the medical corps at a French hospital.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The Blue and The Gray - author unknown

 "O mother! What do they mean by blue?
And what do they mean by gray?"
I heard from the lips of a little child
As she bounded in from her play.
The mother’s eyes were filled with tears;
She turned to her darling fair
And smoothed away from the sunny brow
The treasure of golden hair.

"Why, mother’s eyes are blue, my sweet,
And grandpa’s hair is gray,
And the love we bear our darling child
Grows stronger every day."
"For what do they mean?" maintained the child,
"For I saw two cripples to-day,
And one of them said he had ‘fought for the blue,’
The other had ‘fought for the gray.’

"The one of the blue had lost a leg,
And the other had but one arm,
And both seemed worn and weary and sad,
Yet their greeting was kind and warm,
They told of the battles in days gone by
Till it made my blood run chill,
The leg was lost in the Wilderness fight
And the arm on Malvern Hill.

"They sat on the stone by the farmyard gate
And talked for an hour or more,
Till their eyes grew bright and their hearts seemed warm
With fighting their battles o’er;
And parted at last with a friendly grasp,
In a kindly, brotherly way,
Each asking God to speed the time
Uniting the blue and the gray."

Then the mother thought of other days,
Two stalwart boys from her riven;
How they’d knelt at her side, and, lisping, prayed:
"Our Father, who art in heaven;"
How one wore the gray and the other the blue,
How they passed away from sight
And had gone to the land where gray and blue
Merge in tints of celestial light.

And she answered her darling with golden hair,
While her heart was sorely wrung
With thoughts awakened in that sad hour
By her innocent, prattling tongue;
"The blue and the gray are the colors of God;
They are seen in the sky at even,
And many a noble, gallant soul
Has found them passports to heaven."