I think it’s sort of a good thing that Memorial Day weekend comes right after Pentecost Sunday this year. Pentecost is about being given the gift of the Holy Spirit; it’s about our spiritual gifts in general; and it’s about the Christian community. Memorial Day honors those we have lost, and although the cultural focus is on those lost to war and other military actions, many people use the day to honor any and all loved ones who have died. So, both of these days are about community.
And, really, both are about gifts. When I remember a loved one who has died, I remember more than the physical person who is no longer present. I remember what that person gave to me and to others. Ultimately, each of us will be remembered for our character and for our gifts. Those who knew me will remember me as kind or cranky, as intelligent or driven or generous. But they will also remember the words I gave them, the help I offered, the gifts specific to me that made the world a little bit better—at least this is what I hope they remember!
So, as we have spent some time in recent days remembering those loved ones who have died, recalling their gifts to us, we can spend the next few days with an exercise of the imagination.
Actually, this is a very Ignatian exercise. Imagine that you are on your deathbed—or that you have already died. Imagine people arriving to pay their respects. View the groups gathering to discuss you, and listen to the conversations. What are people saying about you, now that you’re gone?
After you’ve spent some time listening, consider this: What would you want people to remember about you and say about you?
Then take it a step further: How can you live now so that people will remember you the way you want to be remembered?