The American Memorial Day holiday used to simply mean the beginning of summer to me. This US holiday (formerly "Decoration Day") came about after the Civil War as a day to decorate the graves of those who died at war. When I came to this country, I quickly learned that to most Americans, summer officially starts with Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, and ends with Labor Day, the first Monday in September. If I asked wasn't Labour Day on the 1st of May, I was told "well, that's communist!" -- few Americans know that May Day (a.k.a. International Workers Day) is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago.
But I digress. To me, Memorial Day is no longer merely the beginning of the summer camping season. Exactly a year ago, a young friend of our family tragically died in an alcohol-related incident on a Memorial Day camping trip. Fletcher and my son had met and become best friends in Kindergarten when we first moved here some 13 years ago. After Kindergarten, the two boys went to different schools, but continued their friendship -- although gradually drifting apart over time. This May, Fletcher would have graduated from High School.
I cannot approach to understand what grief his parents must be feeling every single day since that tragic day. We were on our annual Memorial Day weekend camping trip when we heard the news a year ago. In fact, we were at Summit Lake, the same spot we had once spent a wonderful weekend camping together with Fletcher's family 10 years ago.
I have fond memories from that trip: the weather was amazingly sunny (it was actually hot, well maybe it reached 80F that day)-- the kids even went splashing in the lake! Fletcher and Wulfi were playing at our campsite "climbing" young spruce trees until they completely bent over: the boys would disappear and the tree bounce back! The two of them could keep themselves occupied for hours with imaginary play, and they were mostly pretty good about including "little" sis in their games. I remember how Wulfi and Fletcher would make their own swords, bows and arrows (sometimes even appropriating bamboo poles from my gardening supply). I also sewed quite a few props for their games back then: capes, quivers, and sheaves for their wooden swords...
Now that innocent age seems long gone. I'm just filled with sorrow when I reflect on how Fletcher's parents don't get to see their son grown and go off into the world. All they have left now are memories. I wish I wasn't at such a loss on how to reach out to them on this anniversary of his death -- I know it's difficult for them to be around our family when our children are such painful reminders of their loss.
God bless Fletcher's family on this Memorial Day.