“Hundreds attend the funeral of someone they didn’t even know.”
I love this story! Harold Jellicoe Percival was in the Royal Air Force in England and served during WWII. He died recently at age 99. And since he never married or had children, the only expected attendee of the service was a nephew.
However, the funeral home hosting the service put an advertisement in the paper, inviting other veterans to come and honor his life. Over 400 people ended up attending though when the post went viral on social media. There were so many people there, in fact, that most couldn’t fit in the chapel and had to stand outside in the rain while the service was going on. (Link here for more on the BBC story.)
Listening to the newsflash about the memorial service I was struck by curiosity about why so many people who didn’t even know him attended. Yes, he was a veteran. As ground crew he inspected and repaired planes that flew over France during battles. He had not been decorated a hero. There was no autobiography making him famous, no site named after him. People came, simply to honor a man who served.
To me it feels like people rarely pay attention to individual stories unless they have had a direct and tangible impact on their own life. We are grateful, I think, for holidays, like Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day, when we can pay this tribute. But then again… I wonder how many people spent their Veterans Day yesterday doing something other than watching football or going bowling (the two things we ended up doing with our day.) I think this is why this overheard was so immediately heart warming for me.
I realized, in thinking about this memorial service attended by so many, that each life story deserves to be told and honored. Deserves, if nothing else, an a tweetable epitaph. Mr. Percival knew how to fix engines and fight the Nazis. He loved cricket. Nomadic by nature, he carried a backpack to travel. #tweetpitaph
I am so glad to see that, in this case, Mr. Harold Percival was honored with far more than 140 characters.
Is there anyone you would like to honor with a tweetpitaph? Did you do anything special to honor Veterans’ Day? I love to hear from my blog readers. And to prove it, I am donating $10 to the non-political charity of one lucky commenter this month. Leave a comment for any of my blogs, and then check back at the end of the month to see if your name was drawn.
“What is Memorial Day supposed to celebrate, anyways?”
The good news is that this quote was said by a child. The bad news was that we all had different ideas about the answer. So far, our children have grown up thinking it is a holiday when all of the neighbors get together, make a big fire in the grill, separate out the kids drinks from the adult ones, and talk about the newest animals roaming our streets.
And oddly enough, I am pretty sure there is actually some basis for this tradition. My father is originally from a very small town in the mid-west. And many Memorial Days while I was young we celebrated by going back his home town to sharing their holiday festivities. This included a street parade (three blocks, from the firehouse to the courthouse) made up of horses, kids in wagons, all Miss Watsons who were still alive and able to walk, a few tractors with flags on them, and the high school band playing patriotic songs. At the end of the parade route there was a huge picnic set up, with tents and tables and, yes, a huge grill with a big fire in it for BBQing. I seem to recall some silly contests, like pie eating, and a speech by the mayor. I also clearly remember discussion about which animals were plaguing the farmers that year.
So, all in all, not that different from our own, more modern, celebration. The question I have is why? Why do we celebrate Memorial Day like this? How does it represent what the holiday is all about.
According to Time for Kids: Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May. It is an occasion to honor the
men and women who died in all wars.
Not only that, but it was started in 1868 and was named Memorial Day 20 years later. Then in 1950, it became officially recognized when: On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a
proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.
So not only do we remember those who have died in wars, but we also unite in praying for peace. In fact, there is even designated a “National moment for remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time.” Somewhere in the BBQ set-up and fire building I think this moment was lost yesterday. I won’t let that happen again next year though.
And, actually, after the food was eaten and the kids had at least been told the part about remembering those who had died in wars, we did sort of say our own neighborhood version of a prayer for peace… it went something like this:
“Please Lord, let the raccoon who is at war with our neighborhood find a new home. Amen.”
Happy Memorial day to all of my friends, family and readers.
Subscribe to my blog:
Link here to Betting Jessica on Amazon.com