Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
In an instant, we are here, and in another instant, we are not. Some call it the journey of life—it is a common expression. However, life as we know it can be more than a journey. Life can be exciting. Life can be a trip to places never imagined. Life can be all these things and more—even as we gain years.
Some look into a mirror and see nothing but age, which seemed to have appeared without notice. Others look into a mirror and see maturity as a sign of longevity and survival. Still, there are others who will look into a mirror and see only the past—no regard for the present or the future.
How do we reconcile reality and fantasy? How do we determine that the time we are allotted deserves our complete attention? How do we make our wishes come true? Finally, how do we mix all this together to bring fulfillment to our lives?
All these questions, as we gaze into the mirror of truth, are not entirely answerable. I would imagine that these thoughts ran through the minds of our service men and women who were thrust into harm’s way because of turmoil within the framework of human existence. Perhaps these brave men and women thought of what was and what could be in the same instance.
We pause, as a nation, to pay tribute to all who gave their all in Iraq and Afghanistan. The thrill of the ride is over for these soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, National Guard, and merchant marines. Now we gather to harmonize the drama that became history. There are no more tomorrows or dreams that give us purpose and hope. There is no more of so much that we take for granted.
Our nation recognizes the frailties of life and the sacrifices made on our behalf. We pause to remember. More than that, however, we express our gratitude in our sorrow, because we understand that without their devotion, we would not be here to remember.
Some of us will cry. Some of us will bow our heads in pain. Some of us will visit cemeteries. Some of us will not so easily forget that they are no longer sitting at our table or celebrating the milestones in our lives. There is no wrong way to commemorate the moment of remembrance. I would suggest that perhaps we should laugh, because we celebrate the values of life afforded us through human offerings.
Each display of allegiance should remind us about the goodness of today and the blessings of tomorrow. I am reminded of a cartoon I saw in which a child is kneeling in prayer and says, “….and just so you know, I had a very good day today, so I’d like more of the same tomorrow.” This is how we can pay our respects to the many who no longer walk among us.
We can always find reasons to complain, but a simple gesture of gratitude can also wipe away the feelings of regret. Today, and always, we should express our thankfulness for bringing us all together. Our words and gestures should teach us how fortunate we are to live in a country that cherishes the sacredness of life.
Time and again we utter the words, “We will never forget,” but as time moves on, so do we as well, and the memories fade. There are times we are reminded, but then again, we forget.
While we must continue living to remember, so look back occasionally and express our gratitude.
May our memories enhance our faith. More than that, may our memories be a reminder of how much we owe to those we have lost. And let us pray that we have seen the last of such sacrifice.