Memorial Day is a rather solemn occasion for me because it is a day of remembrance for those we’ve lost, both military and civilian. It’s a day when many PTSD triggers get pulled, many in the form of 21-gun salutes at cemeteries. Gunfire will set off a flashback in a less than a heartbeat for me, and give me nightmares to go with it. That’s how we celebrate Memorial Day, though. If it weren’t for all of the triggers, I’d go and visit my grandma’s grave, and my eighth-grade buddy’s grave in the cemetery at Park City, and I’d go to the Veteran’s Cemetery and visit my friend’s grave who died of lung cancer (never smoked) and had such terrible clinical Depression that she was happy when she got cancer because it meant an end to the mental suffering (she didn’t seek treatment, and I consider her case a passive suicide). There are so many triggers, though!!! Graves. I see dead people…literally. When under extreme stress, I have hallucinations (PTSD-induced), both visual and auditory, and I get dissociative (unhinged from reality, for those of you who need a definition). I have flashbacks to the Middle East and it takes a full week for my brain to recover from one of those, neurotransmitter-clean-up-wise. It’s plenty more than enough to make me go numb, which is even worse. Memorial Day can be very difficult for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. For me, it’s due to PTSD. For someone else, it may be the actual loss of a loved one. My poor sister-in-law lost her brother in the military in Afghanistan. I know what it’s like to lose a buddy in war as a fellow soldier and friend, but I don’t know what it’s like for a civilian to lose a sibling in the military. Both situations will make you about half crazy, though.
I find different ways to celebrate my lost military buddies’, friends’, and relatives’ lives at different times of the year. Like today, I’ll call my former-missionary buddy Russ, who’s family to me, and hope that he picks up the phone. I’ll talk with him and hopefully we’ll have a good talk (he lost his wife, another dear friend of mine, just three years ago very unexpectedly to a heart attack) that will lighten the load of having to bear another Memorial Day without his beloved wife and companion Virginia. We can help each other through these things by remembering their lives, not their deaths. At funerals, I never look at the remains of the deceased if I don’t absolutely have to, because I want to remember them as they were in life – happy, alive, full of humor, and with a smile on their face! That body in the casket? That’s not them. Their spirit has moved on and is free of that body, and that’s what I like to celebrate.
All of those who are “gone” are still with us. They left their impressions upon us while they were alive, and thus left a part of themselves alive within us and everyone else whom they touched. I carry on many people’s lives, and hopefully many people will carry on mine through the impressions we have left on others. Maybe it’s a way to remember that we need to be kind to one another in life, so that our lives mean something and are carried on by others – so I would recommend that you make a good impression!!! You don’t want to be celebrated as that nasty old hag on the corner or that thieving young fool down the block! Really, though, celebrate the departed’s life. That’s what they’d want. Nobody wants to be mourned over forever. Celebrate their life!!! Celebrate THEM!!! Celebrate Memorial Day!!! And CELEBRATE FREEDOM!!!