It was an ordinary Tuesday at the end of April, just like many before and many after. I was on my way to an appointment driving a familiar route past the schools and the cemetery.
Most days, as I drive this route, it is uneventful, not much going on to draw my attention. It seems lately, that every time I drive by the cemetery they are having another memorial service, and I will say a quick prayer for the families as I drive by. This day however, something was different. Maybe it was the canopy setup so close to the road for a memorial service that caught my attention, but no one was there. It was then my eyes were drawn to two young men at a grave.
As my eyes did a quick scan of the area, I noticed these two young men. One was sitting crisscross applesauce – the other was on his knees with one knee pulled up to his chest and he was hugging it as one would hug a teddy bear for comfort. My heart was overwhelmed with a deep sadness for these young men as I continued to watch. I kept one eye on the road and one eye on them.
The traffic was unusually heavy this time of day and the light ahead was red – causing the traffic to back up. My car happen to stop dead even with where these young men where in the cemetery. It was then that I noticed the flags decorating the name plaque and the 20-oz brown beer bottle sitting on the headstone.
My heart broke even more. Who were these men? Who were they coming to visit in the cemetery?
Was it their father?
Or a friend and fellow soldier?
As I sat there and watched for maybe a minute, I could feel their deep sorrow and loss. I wanted to go to them, pray for them, tell them about a Heavenly Father who loved them and would comfort them at this time. I wanted to hear their story. I wanted to help ease their pain, and yet, I didn’t want to interrupt their moment. I didn’t really have the time either, I was running behind for my appointment as it was, but I purposed to pray for them and I knew that on my way home, I would have to stop and see who this person was that these young men were missing so much.
As I returned home later in the day, I didn’t have time to stop. In the days after, I didn’t stop because they were having a memorial service and I didn’t want to interrupt, but I prayed.
Every day for weeks, as I drove by, my eye would wander to the beer bottle and the flags decorating this grave. I memorized where it was so I could find it, when I could stop in, in case the beer bottle was removed.
My heart continued to ache for these people I didn’t even know, so I continued to pray. Late in the day a few weeks ago, I went to the cemetery to see who this person was, since God was calling me to pray for their family and friends.
I noticed as I made my way to the grave-site, that the beer bottle had been removed, but the flags were still there. Once I reached the headstone and read the information, I was struck by the age of the man who had been laid to rest beneath the ground. He was born two years before I was, yet when he had passed away he was my same age. I took a long minute to pause and think about that. Honestly, it kind of hit close to home, even though I didn’t know this man.
He was indeed a military man. His name was Douglas – Doug passed away in 2014 and he served in the Us Coast Guard, but that is about all I knew.
Lord, why have you been asking me to pray for this man, those men who were here that day and their family?
Did Doug have a family?
I glanced at the other gravestones next to him and there was only one other that had the family name. I concluded, it was probably his father, also a military man, he served in the army. As I stood there, I prayed for their families and the ones who loved them. Then I went home. However, I have continued to pray for them.
Last night, I went again to the cemetery to visit Douglas and took my daughter with me. We talked about how she has never really been to visit a cemetery to remember those who have gone before. Our families live in another state and so we don’t have family connections buried in any cemetery close to us, therefore, she has never experienced the true meaning of Memorial Day. She’s an adult, so she understands what it means, but there is a difference in having head knowledge and experiential knowledge of something.
Memorial Day is a day when we are to remember and honor the many who have died in service our country. We live in a free country because of the sacrifice many have made for us. They fought so we could live free.
Photo Credit: Brandi Kitterman Photography
Today, as I was writing this post, I decided to search for information about Douglas. I discovered Doug graduated from the High School that I drive by nearly every day and is right next to the cemetery where he is buried. He loved his community and he loved people. His obituary said “his home was always open.” He worked for the local community college for more than 20 years. He joined the United States Coast Guard in 1998 where he served proudly for 15 years. After 9/11, Doug participated in Operation Noble Eagle in Puget Sound, providing protection to US Navy facilities and ships. He deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom and again in 2011 for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. The year of his death he also ran for office as the county commissioner. I also discovered that he had no natural children of his own, but he did have two daughters he gained when he married his wife. They had been married 22 years.
So, if he had no sons, who were these two young men sitting as his grave-site, mourning his passing a year and half later? Did they serve with him in the Coast guard? Maybe, but I don’t really know, and probably never will, however, what I do know is that I have been called to pray for them. To pray for their deep sorrow and sadness, and that they would find comfort and HOPE. The hope that only Jesus can give.
Was Doug a believer? I have no proof, but I tend to believe yes, from the things I read about him.
This weekend many will go to the burial place of loved ones who have gone before and remember them. They will decorate their graves and remember the lives that used to be. They will remember lives cut short and those lived well.
This weekend, I will be remembering Douglas, not because I knew him, but because, God has placed his family and friends on my heart. I will pray that if they don’t have HOPE and relationship with the ONE (Jesus) who gave it all that they will soon.
I will honor Jesus by obeying Him in the simply task of praying for Doug’s family that He has asked me to do. I will remember that Jesus gave it ALL for us so that we too could be free!
Will you be remembering someone this Memorial Day?
This Memorial Day let us remember: All gave some and some gave all!
Oh … PS for those wondering if we have heard any news about the job situation – No, we haven’t yet, but I will keep you posted. If you missed what I am talking about – check it out here: When Life Gives You Lemons and here: When Life Gives you Lemons…Plant Trees!
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Thanks for reminding us that each death represents a person, with a life that they lived prior to being a soldier. Blessings to Doug’s family.
Lisa – you are so very welcome – it is a reminder I myself needed. Enjoy your weekend.
Debbie, this is so beautiful! I love that God placed this so tenderly on your heart. What a beautiful thing to be praying for people you haven’t even met. Thank you for the reminder of our freedom and the sacrifices that have been made to keep that freedom. Have a great weekend!
Thank you Alisa! and you are most welcome for the reminder- I too needed to be nudged and reminded. I love how God does the unexpected in how He moves in our lives to change us to see things we may not otherwise see. You have an awesome weekend as well.
Such a beautiful post. Your words are filled with compassion and love for others, for these two men and for the many who sacrificed their all for us.
I live far from where my father and mother are buried…Arlington National Cemetery. My father gave his all and I have learned over the years since I was a girl to so appreciate him, my mother, and the many, many others who stand tall for me.
Thank you for writing this.
Linda, thank you so much for your words about my post, and you are so welcome in regards to me writing this. Also, thank you for your fathers sacrifice, I am so glad that you can share with us the things you have learned over the years and that many others have stood tall for you and for me. Blessings and Peace as you remember your Father and Mother this Memorial Day.
Debbie, what a beautiful story. Thank you for your obedience and faithfulness to pray for those 2 young men and Douglas’ family. Whether or not you ever “know” the whole story, I know your prayers can make a powerful difference.
There are so many times when I believe we need to take the time to pray for those who cross our paths. I try to remember the “rude” clerk or service person may not know the Lord and may not have anyone praying for him or her … that young mom losing her patience with her children needs prayer more than my mental criticism … that older person who’s slow driving leaves me frustrated may be frustrated by their loss of ability to do what they used to do …
Thanks again for a great example.
Donna – thank you so much! You are so right – I may never know the whole story, but being obedient and faithful to what God asked me to do, is enough.. Plus, I know that God will be up to something good for their family, He always is, when He has others pray. You gave such great examples of other times, when we should be praying for others as well. Thank you for that. Have an awesome week
Debbie what a beautiful reminder and poignant story about those who serve our country. I also love how you heeding God’s leading and it sounds like both you and your daughter were blessed as you prayed for Douglas’family I can never thank them enough for their service and sacrifice. Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful week and God bless you and yours in all your endeavors!
Thank you Horace – Yes, we most cetainly were both blessed as we prayed for Douglas’ family. I feel the same way as you – thank you just doesn’t seem enough when people sacrifice their lives does it? But, sometimes a thank you is all we have. Have a wonderful week yourself.
Great post, Debbie! Thanks for sharing with us at Testimony Tuesday. As a military family, I know we appreciate your support and encouragement for all service families.
Thank you Holly. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by today. I love sharing my posts at Testimony Tuesday.
Debbie, I am moved by your obedience to trust that God had a gift and lesson for you and your daughter in following His prompting. Thank you for passing on this lesson through your words and heartfelt honoring of Doug and all those who gave more than so many of us could ever comprehend! So thrilled to have you sharing your heart on Fresh Market Friday!
Crystal – thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment today, I am honored. God is amazing! I love how He continues to work in our hearts as we step out in obedience to Him, in the big things and even in the small things as we pray for those He places on our hearts. This year, Memorial Day for me was so much different. It wasn’t just a long extended weekend to kick off the start of summer fun and hopefully good weather – it was more about remembering the true meaning and honoring those who gave their lives. Blessings to you
It’s interesing what happens when God presses upon our hearts to pray for people. You were obedient and were able to find out more about this man to share with us. You may never know who those two men were, but I am sure they benefitted from your prayers. God’s ways are not our ways. Blessings to you, Debbie. Thanks for much for sharing this with us at #LMMLinkup!
Gayle – you are so right and thank goodness that God’s ways are not our ways! His are way better even if we don’t understand. Thank you so much for stopping by and your encouraging note today.
What an amazing story, Debbie. It is remarkable how the Lord works in our lives to pray for others, even when we don’t know them. Thank you for sharing what Memorial Day is all about, and how blessed we are by these brave individuals. Glad to see you link up with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope you will join the party again this week 🙂
Thank you Kelly! I am always amazed how the Lord works in our lives as we step out in obedience to Him, even in the simple act of praying for others. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and visit today – you can bet you will see me on Sunday!
I love that even in your busy schedule you visit this man’s grave. So many times we don’t see what is going on around us. Beautiful words!
Sarah, you are so right – sometimes we can get so busy “doing life” that we don’t see what is around us… I am guilty of it more than I would like, but I have been working really hard to not be so busy that I don’t have time to respond to the promptings of the Lord. Thank you for stopping by today and leaving me some encouragement. Have a blessed weekend.
Wow, Debbie this was so moving!! It brought tears to my eyes and I appreciate you honoring this man, going above and beyond is quite an example. My husband also participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2010, this is close to my heart. It is close anyways because this man was a servantleader. I am so glad you are praying for them, you are truly a daughter of the King!!! Thanks for linking up at #TeaAndWord last week!
Thank you Meg! I am so very glad for the honor to be praying for this man and his family… it’s my personal assignment from the Lord right now. Thank you for sharing how this story moved you and how it related to you and your family as well. I appreciate you taking the time stopping in to read and leave a comment for me. Blessings.
I love this story. Those inklings and feelings come to me too, at the oddest times. I like to think that maybe I was part of someone else’s gift at that point. I’m not sure what part I played, but I’m hoping that it eased someone else’s heart or their day. Memorial Day is such a time of honor, and I love that we give thanks and we remember how we got where we are.
Thank you Nikki – I like how you look at it as being a part of someone else’s gift. I appreciate your giving me a new way to think on the meaning of these moments when they come my way.