Commentary: Reflection this Memorial Day

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Daniel Wilton
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Chaplain Corps

As I write this article, we are fast approaching Memorial Day. Most will be off work. Some may travel. Some may get together to share meals and times of fellowship. Hopefully, the margin enjoyed on this holiday will allow some time to solemnly remember the men and women that have given their lives in the defense of our freedoms.

Solemn remembrance is a very human and healthy practice. It is imbued with appreciation and is akin to reflection. I thought a few words on “reflection” may be helpful during this time of remembrance.

I believe reflection goes beyond a simple remembering. “Remembering” can too easily become “misremembering” because it is subjective and influenced by trauma or other strong emotions. As an identical twin, my brother and I have realized in our adulthood that we share several melded memories. I remember some things as if they happened to me, but my brother remembers those things as if they happened to him. Who is right? How could our memories be so unreliable?

I have often told a story about misremembering a moment from my childhood. At a large Christmas gathering at my uncle’s house, our large family enjoyed a gift exchange. However, as the presents were distributed it was discovered that there wasn’t a present for me. That made me sad. My uncle noticed the same thing and returned quickly from his garage with a hastily wrapped present just for me. I opened it, and with some disappointment I saw a handful of fishing lures. I didn’t even own a fishing pole! I probably said thank you, but inwardly I wasn’t very thankful.

For years, I remembered that day as the day my uncle had forgotten to buy me a gift. However, over the years I have discovered my memory isn’t always trustworthy. I have learned that when I presume to have all of the information, all I am equipped to do is misinterpret everything. As an adult reflecting on that day, I now believe my uncle was a faithful host attentive to the needs of his visiting family. Someone had forgotten me, but it wasn’t my uncle. He saw my need, grabbed some of his most favorite and costly lures and gave them to me freely, knowing that I would likely not appreciate them. After some reflection, I can now see my uncle for the loving man he was to me on that day.

My point is this: Reflection has helped me see my past with new eyes to learn lessons and reinterpret the pains or life wounds that have helped shape my story. Reflection helps frame my memories with truth that spurs me towards growth. It has been good and humbling to admit the limitations of my memory.

I am guessing there are likely solemn memories in your own story that still cause you some degree of pain to remember. I would encourage you to consider the practice of reflection. As a religious person, my spiritual reflection involves inviting God to help me learn from my past and see things more from his perspective and not my own.

Here are some simple questions to begin with if you desire to integrate reflection into your own spiritual fitness routine. I believe if they are seriously undertaken, you, too, may discover new meaning and transforming lessons from those situations you remember with pain or solemnness.

Spiritual Reflection Questions:
▪ God, with what I know about this situation, what do you want me to learn about you?

▪ God, what would you like me to know that would give me a clearer perspective on this situation from my past? Please help me consider where I may be presumptuous or wrong.

▪ God, what do you want me to learn about myself from this situation?

▪ What properly understood Scriptures from my religion support these lessons I have learned about my God, my situation and myself?

▪ Are these lessons also taught and celebrated by those actively and joyfully engaged in my religion?

▪What fruit or results are occurring as I implement these lessons into my life?