Meaning, memories, and "A Splendid Torch."
Happy Memorial Day to those of you living in the States! And to all, everywhere on this little blue dot we call Earth/ home...
Memorial Day, of course, is not just a day to kick off summer by consuming a lot of burgers, be they veggie, turkey, or beef. (Although Carlo and I _did_ go to FatBurger on Saturday night.)
It's "a day on which those who died in active military service are remembered..."
Growing up in Minnesota, my Grandmother grew gorgeous gladiolas. (As pictured above.) She was an amazing gardener with all kinds of flowers but what I most remember her talking about were her African Violets and her "Glads." Every year on Memorial Day, she would delicately cut at the base of the Gladiola stalks and create stunning bouquets. Then, we would drive from her farm in rural Jackson to the town cemetery. We spent the most time at the grave of my Grandfather, as well as other distant-to-me-but-probably-not-to-her relations. I still cannot quite put it into words, but a certain feeling would come over me then, and still does now, just thinking about it... a deep sense of connection to the past, and a profound honoring of the lineage from whence I came.
In some places, gladiolas are called "Sword lilies." In Rome, gladioli were associated with gladiators. Some say that gladiators wore gladiolus corms around their necks during battles to help them win and protect them from death. Because of their association with gladiators, the gladiolus flower meaning is strength and integrity. They also symbolize infatuation. By giving a gladiolus to someone, the giver sends the message “you pierce my heart” to the receiver, because of the flower’s pointed shape. Another gladiolus meaning is remembrance.
Sometimes, it's good to remember. Not to dwell, not to dramatize, but to feel that connection to that which came before us, to the circles and cycles of possibility and love and honor and creation that has delivered us onto the world today.
So, this Memorial Day... It no longer feels exactly right to say "Happy Memorial Day" after all this.... so I will instead share my favorite quote:
"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
George Bernard Shaw