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Pastor Bruce's Weekly Message
May 22, 2024

On Being a Memorial

In the movie, THE WAY WE WERE, Robert Redford’s character, Hubbell Gardner, writes, "In a way he was like the country he lived in; Everything came too easily to him. But at least he knew it." That last phrase is key. Knowing our blessings and fortunate circumstances is an essential part of understanding our place in the world and purpose for the future. Since we have no idea what that future holds we must lay down a foundation that is solid. On Memorial Day of 2019, for some inexplicable reason all the Haapalainens were together. Everyone’s agenda for that day included a stop at the same table at the same time. We had an opportunity to eat and laugh together, sharing stories and rehearsing memories. As the meal ended Jeanie said, “I don’t know what the future will bring or where we will be at this time next year, but this moment is perfect.” Little did any of us know that by the next Memorial Day, our five-some would be just a trio. Instead of all gathering on Memorial Day we’ve become living memorials to Dylan and Ian. One definition of a memorial is, “something … established to remind people of a person or event.” Much of our lives now orbits around, memory and honor. Maybe giving living homage to what has been is the best way for us to become who we are meant to be.


When I was in South Bend, Indiana, on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we began the service by having two candles lit. One was lit by a couple who lost a son in Vietnam. He was listed as MIA from 1972 until 2008, when his remains were positively identified. The other candle was lit by veterans attending the service that day. One was in hope that some light might be shed on the dark topic of POW’s and MIA’s. The other, a call to remind everyone of the light of sacrifice of those who gave up their most precious possession, so that freedom and liberty might remain a possession of ours.


A few years ago, I was asked to speak at a service honoring vets and their families. That was not easy for me because it put me a little out of my “arena.” Even though I love my country I’m not a veteran. So, I had a lot floating around in my skull as I pondered just what to say. More than anything else in the speech I wanted to lift up what are for me two reoccurring themes: “We must never be allowed to take for granted the sacrifices of the past.” And: “The best way to prove that someone else’s life has value, is to live our life in a changed way because of them.”


“But how,” I wondered, “do I say that?” Especially to a gathering of people who had given up their time, energy and of their own flesh and blood? The night before the speech I watched a war movie on TV. I can’t remember much about the film except that John Wayne wasn’t in it and that it closed with a military burial. As the movie ended, the camera concentrated on the flag. From its place on the flagpole it was lowered, folded, and given to the man’s wife who passed it on to her son. If you look at it one way, the flag should be placed in the ground with the body of the soldier but, it never is. The flag is never buried or lowered into the ground because it’s meant to fly. Sometimes it’s posted at half-mast and other times we might question what the country it represents is doing. But it’s meant to fly.


In many ways, it should be Memorial Day every day. Instead of having or giving memorials, we should be memorials. We should light and re-light that candle of sacrifice and honor. Looking back is not to lower ourselves into the false sense of security of what’s past, but to raise ourselves into the challenges of living in the living present. The only real way to give value and credence to those who have given so much to us, is to reflect their lights. 

Woven Baskets

Summer Yard Sale

Join us for the annual summer yard sale!

Saturday, August 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The Bell Newsletter

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Summer Yard Sale: August 17, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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