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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