An article turned up recently about how Memorial Day started back in 1865 by former slaves who were honoring 257 dead Union Soldiers. It was quite impressive actually, since they dug up the bodies which were buried in a mass grave in a prison camp, and then gave them a proper reburial in honor of their service. A parade followed with singing and celebration.
As we celebrate Memorial Day 149 years later, I wonder about the legacy these soldiers left as they died for the Union Cause and those on the other side: the Confederacy, which also believed they were fighting for a just cause “under God.” Both sides gave so much and while the Union “won” that horrible war, feelings still can be provoked as to the “real” winner, depending on where you grew up.
Then there is the legacy the former slaves left. They began a tradition of honoring those who fight in battle for the right of freedom. They celebrated after the ceremony and following tradition we celebrate, with barbeques, parades, family get togethers, sports events, and even our retail markets create all kinds of “Memorial Day sales” in honor of the holiday.
It made me wonder what kind of legacy I am leaving. What am I going to leave behind which holds the most importance? A legacy can be money or other material goods, but money and other items lose value and is only an earthly commodity. A legacy can also be a tradition or something you have learned or can offer of yourself which makes a meaningful contribution to those receiving.
If I am going to leave a legacy, then I want it to be something that matters; something that makes a difference in people's lives, beyond this life. I want my legacy to be of the heart and spirit. If I can touch someone’s heart and mind in a positive way, it is likely to have a ripple effect that touches the lives of others. That impact can be felt for generations after we are gone. Isn’t that what living is all about? Isn’t that what happened from the first Memorial Day celebration back in 1865?
What of God’s legacy? He provided the ultimate inheritance. He provided us with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, His Word and ultimately His Kingdom. I suggest the greatest legacy we can leave, therefore, is spiritual truth to those around us. It is what means the most in this life because it is what renders us to God’s Heavenly Kingdom. To share with others a personal encounter with the One True God can be no greater gift.
As you contemplate the meaning of Memorial Day, by remembering those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy, I encourage you to share God’s gift of Jesus with others. Rewards await you, not just in this world, but in the one to come.