Memorial Day Weekend - Finding the Happy in the Sad

Memorial Day Weekend - Finding the Happy in the Sad

Posted by Hallie S. on May 24th 2017

“I’m an American soldier, an American,
Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand,
When liberty’s in jeopardy I will always do what’s right
I’m out here on the front lines. Sleep in peace tonight.”

So this weekend is Memorial Day weekend and I don’t know about all of you - but I’m ready. It’s a long weekend at home, the official unofficial start to summer in my book, the sign that there is sun, fun, family time in the future. All good things, right? But that’s the silver lining to the weekend as a whole, the gratitude to what Memorial Day weekend is truly about, what it signifies to us in other ways. Because when you sit and really contemplate it, there is some sadness, some sorrow to the weekend. And honoring that is just as important. And imperative in our lives - not just as individuals but as parents, as contributors to society, as Americans.

Memorial Day the Holiday

Bear with me for a minute and let me give you a quick run down on what Memorial Day is. Cuz I had to research it a little myself and, hey - knowledge is power. Memorial Day is a holiday that recognizes and honors those that have died while serving in our armed forces. The holiday actually can be traced back to the 1860’s time and was originally called Decoration Day. Fun fact - it was called Decoration Day because the practice was that the graves of the fallen soldiers were decorated with flowers. And the original Decoration Day was May 30 - because that’s when flowers were in full bloom. Families would gather on family plots, bring potluck and decorate these graves - make it a family occasion or get-together where they were memorializing their loved one, celebrating their service and honoring their sacrifice. Hence, the modern day term ‘Memorial Day’.

Stop and reflect on that for just a minute. These families dating back 100’s of years, putting their lives on hold to come together and rejoice in the life of someone they loved, someone that ultimately sacrificed for their freedoms and for their very right to come together. Not just thought provoking but a little bit of inspiration in a time that was full of desperation. Happy in the sad.

How we celebrate Memorial Day

Across the US you will see observances of Memorial Day. One of the most beautiful and touching ways in that we celebrate Memorial Day is by - you guessed it - decorating the graves of our veterans and fallen heroes, our family members that have passed before us. I’ll be honest…I always just thought this was a way of saying ‘thank you’ to those that have served and/or just a tradition that families did on Memorial Day - kind of like how you KNOW there will be fireworks on the Fourth of July. However, now I get it. It’s a tradition that has been followed for centuries, a way of honoring and having gratitude for the lives of those that we love - whether they served their country or simply served their families. A time of sadness, for sure, because we loved them. But the beauty of the tradition and how it has grounded us as families, individuals, Americans and truly withstood the test of time - in that tradition there is contentment.

Other ways we celebrate Memorial Day

There are so many other ways that we celebrate Memorial Day that are of such significance. Some of them well-known and some of them not. And if you have never celebrated the significance of Memorial Day - well, here you go. I’m giving you some ideas.

Family Get-Togethers

This has more significance now, right? Knowing what Memorial Day is truly about and how it came to be - this totes makes sense!  How many of us get together with our families, our friends, cook out, hang out, chill? Most of us at some point this weekend will do just that. (I have been invited nowhere as of yet so…) It’s the first time after the long months of winter, the clean up of spring, being cooped up and worn out to get-together with those we love and let our hair down. We shake off those winter doldrums (sad) and spend time with those that we care about (happy) and do so with food, family, friends and fun. Again, still waiting on my invite… 

Parades/Town Fairs

This is the kick-off for many towns and cities across the US where they break out the red, white and blue, practice their float decorating, sell their goods and get together with others in the community to celebrate. It’s a chance to not just be neighborly and come together and unite (fun) but also to take a moment to reflect on those that served not only their community but also their country (sorrow). Many town celebrations also have a moment of silence in honor of those that have served and family members may serve as Grand Marshall or be given an honorary key to the city or something of that nature. A sad time for them to be without a loved one but what an honor to know that their loved one has not been forgotten. Silver lining. 


Yasssssss! Some of you are aware of Murph, some of you have partaken in Murph and others of you are like - who the heck is Murph??? (I am not talking about my dog Murphy) Murph is a workout that consists of the following for time: 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, 1 mile run. Preferably with a 20 pound vest. No you don’t spread it out over the course of the week. No, it’s not a team event. It’s one workout, one long duration of Oh My God this is awful! And many athletes across the world partake in Murph at some point over Memorial Day weekend. WHY???? 

Murph came to be in memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy of Patchogue, N.Y. LT Murphy was killed in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. “Murph” was a favorite workout of Lt. Murphy’s and he named it “Body Armor”. When Lt. Murphy died, the workout was renamed Murph in honor of his service and sacrifice to the United States of America and the people of our country. Sad? Very much so. Happy? Well, I don’t know if happy best describes the workout but certainly the feeling you have when it’s completed. And without question - an apt tribute to one of our American Heroes.

Other significance of Memorial Day weekend

I realize that there are other changes going on that typically we cerebrally connect with Memorial Day weekend. The weekend is kind of a catch all for major happenings and changes in the lives of families. In no way does this overshadow the sacrifices and the lives that we honor this weekend - it’s just the nature of the beast that we multi-task and give the weekend itself a lot of significance to the transitions taking place in other areas of our lives. Allow me to explain.

Home Maintenance

Yeah, let’s do that all weekend. Fun times. That was the reaction that I got from my three goslings as this is a weekend where we catch up on maintenance. Stone to move, mulch to spread, house to power wash, blah, blah, blah. But we aren’t alone. Families everywhere are taking advantage of the extra day and GETTING THINGS DONE! There are typically extra bodies around with college kids home and a long weekend from school and with no rush to get back to work on Monday, that extra day means that you can pack in a little bit more when there never seems to be enough time in the day. Crossing that road from spring to summer and getting the house inside and out ready for the summer months - it isn’t an easy task and this is the weekend when you will see many families tackling the chore. Sad - children and teens that would rather be playing Xbox. Happy - mom and dad.

Life Changes

Two words that I connect with summer (at least summer 2017) - graduations and weddings. I mean, c'mon…why at 45 am I still going to weddings? The graduation party invites are rolling in, wedding rsvp’s, it’s a time when change is standing on the edge of the diving board ready to take a flying leap into the drink. With June and July being major wedding months, this Memorial Day weekend is that last push to get things together, put the finishing touches on those last minute details and transition into that next big step in a relationship. Seniors are finishing up exams, the last of their projects and stepping their big toe into the ocean of adulthood, college and student loans and responsibility. Oh the places you will go! It’s a sad time for many parents, myself included, as you look back on how fast time went and how did we get to this moment. And, it’s a time of pure joy and happiness for those that are setting off on the major life changes that are going to let them spread their wings and find out just whom they are and whom they are meant to be. Laughing through the tears

Summer Fun

Given that I live where I do, I can tell you this is a kickoff weekend to summer fun. The Bourne Bridge is going to be a parking lot from 3 pm on, summer tunes blaring from the hundreds of cars making their way to NH for the weekend and everywhere you look you’ll see flip flopped feet resting out the passenger side window. Yep, this is the start of summer good times and summer homes are being opened up and aired out and prepped for the warmer months ahead. Lots of memories to be made not only this weekend but also throughout the much anticipated longer days of summer. So much joy and happiness.

There is some sadness to this weekend of summer fun. Many are approaching a first summer without, a last summer with. In light of the tragedy at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester and the devastation that so many families are faced with this weekend, no - it will not be the weekend that they had anticipated it to be a week ago. In our moments of fun this weekend, our joy of having the weekend to LIVE - take a moment to realize that there are those that are living without. Overwhelming despair and sadness.

Memorial Day - My World

This was far more emotional than I thought it would be. I mean, I’m a practical girl and I feel I’m patriotic but this was a great lesson for me that I can be better, be more aware, have a better understanding of not just what Memorial Day is but what it means.

My husband has a first cousin that served in the Army. LT COL William Sean Schumaker served from 1985 to 2009 and was a highly decorated officer. Whereas he did not die in service, he did serve his country valiantly and courageously and as a family, we will honor his service to his country and to all of us on Monday, Memorial Day. And I say thank you to both my husband and my father whom each served their country in the Navy and the Air National Guard respectively. I would like to try to fit in going and simply viewing one of our larger local cemeteries and talking with the kids about the history of Memorial Day (now that I am educated on it myself). I think it’s important for them to understand that in some way, shape or form - each of us is connected to that sacrifice. And it is worth knowing and honoring. 

LT Col William Sean Schumaker June 21, 1961 - December 29, 2011

I have contemplated doing Murph at some point this weekend but man - that’s A LOT of push-ups...and pull-ups.  And man - 300 air squats? This may or may not be the year that I tackle that challenge but my hat is off to each and every athlete out there that puts their money where their mouth is and takes Murph on.

Oh we will be busy little bees here over Memorial Day weekend! There is a yard of stone to be moved, a house that needs washing and scrubbing inside and out, bathrooms to be painted and an acre of grass to be mowed. It may take some finagling as there are also graduation parties to attend and other gosling minutiae that will be wagered against doing chores but it will all get done. And I’ve got a fridge chock full of refreshments for Rob and let’s face it - happy dad, no one sad

It is a little melancholy for me this weekend as well. My oldest, my little girl, she’s not so little any more. She’s graduating high school in a few short weeks and in so many ways - my job is done. She is almost an adult and all of those decisions belong to her. Did I do my job? Oh I hope that I did a good job. She is bright, engaging, full of joy and I am JUST so scared to let her go. But you do it. And whereas I am so happy and excited for her and her future and the adventures that lie ahead - I am so sad and got a little empty space inside of me that just can’t be filled.


And my heart aches for all the families that were impacted by the terrorist attack at the concert in Manchester. The families that lost children, sisters, brothers, loved ones, best friends. May there be an outpouring of love and support and guidance for you in the upcoming days, weeks and months ahead and may you know that you are not alone. And that I truly, like millions of others, am so incredibly heartbreakingly sorry for your loss. Life is not fair.

And to my sister and her husband. Their second summer without their son. Summer was their season. And so begins a new chapter, the grand dame of all endurance races when they must just be so tired of running. But maybe there will be more days of laughter this summer than there were last summer. Even if it’s just one more day. And I will continue to hope.

Memorial Day weekend - it’s a big deal. A roller coaster ride of things to honor and remember that are sad but can provoke some joy and gratitude for all that you have. That we wouldn’t have if it were not for the sacrifice of others. Embrace the sadness for it was not without great loss but embody the joy that comes from what you have. Make this weekend full of days well lived. And to those of you that have lost loved ones in battle, that have veterans that have been laid to rest, that have members of your family that have served or are currently serving - thank you. For their sacrifice and for yours. God Bless.

“And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the USA.”