As a child growing up in the 1960s I have fond memories of Memorial Day. Back then, the holiday was always celebrated on May 30. My father, a veteran of World War II, always loved this holiday. We would start the day with a hearty breakfast and then my mom, dad, brother, and I would pile into the car to attend Wilmington’s Memorial Day parade.
During the parade my dad would become quiet. When the United States flag passed by he would place his hand over his heart and urged my brother and I to do the same. His eyes would fill with tears and he would always reach out to hug his family. Immediately after the parade we would visit Cathedral Cemetery. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars would be at the cemetery’s entrance passing out small American flags. We would take two flags and place them on the graves of my great uncles, both veterans of World War I. Immediately after we were off to a Christian family picnic to join my aunts uncles and cousins.
In 1968, Congress passed legislation to move the official observance of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May. From then on the holiday became noted for being the official kickoff for the summer. People flocked to the Delaware beaches or Jersey shore. The holiday never felt the same.
When I began working for Catholic Cemeteries, I became part of a longstanding tradition of preparing for the Memorial Day Field Mass at All Saints Cemetery. I was honored to attend every Mass beginning in 1978 through 2019. This annual event, celebrated for 60 consecutive years until 2019, reinforced Memorial Day as a time to honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation. It emphasized the significance of this day for veterans who survived and left their comrades behind on the battlefield. It was also an occasion for patriotic reflection and gratitude for all in attendance.
While the event has been canceled for 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID 19 pandemic, plans are already underway to celebrate the 61st Mass of Remembrance at All Saints Cemetery on May 30, 2022.
For this Memorial Day, I ask everyone to take a few moments to pause and thank God for all the brave young men and women who have bravely served our country in the armed forces. We must also give special remembrance to all those who have died in the service of our country, and pray for the repose of the souls of all deceased veterans. On this day, we are united as one in our personal tributes of undying love and gratitude for the patriots of yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can look forward to Memorial Day 2022, when we will once again gather as a community of faith at All Saints Cemetery.