Joy, Suffering, and Barbecues

The sun gleams outside, gently caressing my skin with it’s inviting warmth. Wind combs through my hair. I close my eyes and breath in the inviting smell of meat sizzling on a grill closeby.

Just kidding. Here in Texas, the sun makes me want to melt into a puddle of cranky mush, and it’s caress leaves a painful, red mark on my skin when I forget to put sunscreen on. The wind can feel great, but it doesn’t leave you looking great, unless you want to start a Cousin It hair trend.

But you get used to it. I love Texas. I love that once the steaming hot summer is gone, the rest of the year is pretty enjoyable (depending on what part of Texas you’re in).

In the same way, Memorial Day is also easy to get used to. It’s as if our emotions strive to maintain homeostasis, or a certain “set point” so that we don’t get out of control. And so, Memorial Day becomes more of a national barbecue day.

Is there something wrong with having a fun gathering on Memorial Day? Absolutely not. In fact, I think it’s great. But I think it’s important to sit back and reminisce on our blessings. And on this day, to be thankful for the sacrifices others have made for us.

Why? Why should we dwell on something as morbid as that? Why shouldn’t we should live our life to the fullest, and not dwell on the past?

I believe there is a delicate balance between joy and suffering. Pain is like the mutual friend that everyone seems to have met at different points of life. It alerts us when things aren’t as they should be and reminds us that things are not as we would like them to be. It is one of the best teachers we come across, delivering lessons in such a way that it is nearly impossible for us to forget, no matter how hard we may try to.

Suffering can etch a moment into your memory far deeper than happiness. But emotional pain, as devastating and deadly as it may feel, can end up being one of the greatest gifts of all time.

Before you accuse me of insanity, let me explain. If we had nothing to lose, nothing to care about, or no one to cherish, what would be the source of emotional suffering then? Pain reminds us that, although it may no longer be there, we at one time had a beautiful blessing.

There are people in our lives that touch our hearts in a way that we are never the same again. When we lose them, our pain comes from that separation. Life is precious, and death can be unpredictable when it crosses our paths. We have to choose to learn from it. We have to choose to honor to the living as well as the dead.

Then, we can see the joy as well. We can apply what we have learned to other areas in our life, and learn to cherish others as well. Joy is not the fleeting smile of happiness that gets washed away by life’s thunderstorms. It is the awareness of the blessings we have in life, even those that lurk under the wings of suffering.

So why dwell on the sacrifices of others? Why honor the soldiers who gave their lives for others? To cherish them. To honor them. To thank them for our freedom. To thank them for their ultimate sacrifices.

They say ignorance is bliss. But that sounds like a horrible state of mind to live my life. I would rather be joyful. To acknowledge the suffering that those people and their families went through and realizing that good can come from it. To be hopeful of a better future for America and strive towards that goal, so that those sacrifices for America’s freedom are not in vain. To cherish the people I love. And to have the freedom to do so in the ways I see fit.

So thank you.

Thank you Armed Forces of the past that have already given their lives and the loved ones left behind who grieve for them still.

Thank you Armed Forces of the present who serve, willing to sacrifice their lives for others at the cost of their own.

Thank you Armed Forces of the future who are aware of the risks of joining, yet do it anyways.

Thank you loved ones of those in the Armed Forces who support them, even though they may be taken from you.

You are honored and appreciated.

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