Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May in the United States to honor and remember those who gave up their lives for the nation. At the outset, it is an eagerly anticipated three day holiday like the other ones. But of course everybody, including citizens as well as non-citizens have their share of fun over the long weekend. You wake up on Monday without cursing the clock for a change and realize gleefully that your “every-Monday-morning-wish” has come true!
This year, a chance visit to one particular place on this day gave a little insight into its significance and a small glimpse into how it is observed. The place visited was a cemetery, one that can surprisingly be described as ‘beautiful’. It lies in a picturesque location with a dramatic backdrop of two hilly regions standing like sentinels, calmly keeping guard over the tombstones.
There is an adjoining church and a holy statue stands in the center of the area. All of the space where the dead are interred is emerald green. The fountains have all been turned on and the water that has collected in the ponds bordered by flowers in full colorful bloom, sparkles in the warm summer sunshine. There is a special section in the cemetery for people who gave up their lives for the country – the war veterans.
As is the tradition, on Memorial Day, that particular section is adorned with small american flags, one at each grave. Flowers lie interspersed in between. There is naturally an increase in the number of people in the cemetery who have come to honor those brave souls. A few people sit in front of some of the graves, some alone, reflecting silently, some in groups, talking softly among themselves. The mood is sombre all around. At the head of the section are huge plaques with descriptions dedicated to the US army, air force, navy, marine corps and their respective symbolic flags fluttering behind them.
Walking among the graves feels a bit eerie and as if something is amiss, especially for Hindus who-although it is not literally like that here-consider it a sin to touch someone with a foot or walk on someone. But it also leaves one touched that the fallen heroes who defended their motherland are remembered by the Americans through this special day and that their patriotic deeds are given respect every year. Hopefully, it also provides a sense of gratitude for living people – for their life, their freedom and their safety, which can be taken for granted so very easily.