I once wrote a poem titled “Crow, Why Do You Cry.” It appeared in Illumen magazine a few years ago. The original title had been “Memorial Day,” and the crow kawed to bring attention to the graveyard, to ancestors and loved ones who are forgotten on all but a single day in the year. The poem was about me.
I am not a nostalgic person. I’m not very good at staying in touch with the living, much less at remembering the dead. I’ve live a largely internalized life, for better or worse, and much of my time is spent in my own brain. Lately, I’ve been making more of a point to remember my ancestors, both those whom I remember and those whom I don’t.
I’m not one to think about the “good old days,” but it seems that I lose more and more people as years go by. I’ve lost relatives and friends. Mentors and role models. Guiltily, I live most of my life with little thought towards those who influenced it. Today is different.
Memorial Day was a pretty big deal in my family. My dad used to drag me and my sister across Southwest Iowa. I didn’t appreciate it, to be honest. My birthday always falls on Memorial Day weekend, and the idea of spending hours chasing down the worn-out grave-sites of relatives I’d never met didn’t exactly strike me as a good time. It became almost a running joke, going to visit an Uncle Cornelius that had never been anything to me other than a headstone to place flowers upon.
As I have gotten older, and I have lost more and more of the people who made up the threaded tapestry of me, I’ve come to see Uncle Cornelius and his ilk in a different way. They are the threads of my threads, and to pull one out is to unravel a part of me that I never even knew that I needed.
Memorial Day was created as a time to remember those who died serving our country. They gave the ultimate sacrifice and that should never be forgotten. Like your ancestors, they are a part of you, even if you aren’t aware of them. Yet, the day has become something much more–a time to remember those people who constructed our lives as well as those who protected them.
In “Crow, Why Do You Cry,” the crow leaves his perch when the deads’ loved ones showed up. Today, and over the next 364 days, I urge everyone to listen to the crows call a little more often. I plan on making that commitment myself. May we all make a point to remember those we lost, even when there is no special reason to do so.