In 1868, Memorial Day – originally called Decoration Day – was established in the United States to honor fallen soldiers. It’s believed that the end of May was chosen because flowers laid at gravesites would come to bloom then.
At this special time, how can we honor those who are no longer here? We can honor them by appreciating their unselfish service in protecting and defending others. A selfless dedication to serve mankind blesses humanity. Christ Jesus taught: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12, 13).
The Master’s teaching that “a man lay down his life” for others can be seen in a broader context than in terms of war and conflict. The Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians a greater understanding of man’s real substance and the true source of life. He said to them: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;... For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:24, 25, 28).
Each one of us can strive to see beyond the material sense of who and what we are. We can “lay down” beliefs that man is imperfect, flawed, or defined by his body, human history, and how he might be categorized by the world.
This is a wonderfully uplifting and inspiring way to honor each man, woman, and child: by affirming that they are eternally God’s spiritual children. We can do this every day, because this truth of man’s being is a permanent, spiritual fact of God’s creation. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, refers to Paul’s preaching in illustrating this. She writes: “As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being. The Scripture reads: ‘For in Him we live, and move, and have our being’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 361).
Not only can we honor those who have served others by affirming their true, spiritual identity, we can also make dedicated and sincere efforts to demonstrate in our own individual lives the spiritual qualities that constitute man. These God-given qualities, which belong to each one of us, include wholeness, goodness, purpose, and perfection. These are evidenced in our lives through unselfish, dedicated service to others, among other things. Giving of ourselves in promoting the well-being of others is a beautiful way to celebrate those who have done so before us.
Memorial Day comes only once a year. But it can be very helpful to try every day, whether or not we are or have been in the military service, to “lay down” our life for our friends by striving to be unselfish and spiritually motivated in our efforts to do good. These selfless efforts are enhanced and enriched as we follow Christ Jesus’ unparalleled example, beginning to put aside a sense of man as merely mortal. In this way, this special day can blossom into a living and daily honoring of God and His creation, man.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalms 23:6).