of Things Present
A nation is the material embodiment of its beliefs, those things
it holds closest and most central to what it is and who its
people are. In this nation the soul of those beliefs are crystallized
in a handful of documents explaining what that is and why. Much
of that substance is contained in a single work, the Declaration
of Independence, written mostly by Thomas Jefferson over a couple
weeks one June, 231 years ago. But beyond those founding principles
there is a history of sacrifice by successive generations, a
history equally critical to our own survival and to that of
our Republic. So when we’ve set aside a day each year
to honor those who’ve given their lives in defense of
those values, it’s a day to reflect both on the sacrifices
they’ve made, and on the values and the history that have
helped make us who we are, individually and together. We hope
many of you will join in appreciative remembrance of all these
things this Memorial Day.
To those and to the families of those who’ve given their
lives in military service in our nation’s behalf, our
debt is of course inestimable. To those at risk now, in places
and for reasons no one should be asked to serve, we wish you
once again, Godspeed home. And this year in addition to honoring
those who’ve died in military service, we propose that
we add in our prayers the memory of all those who’ve given
their lives in America’s own internal struggles for liberty
and justice. It’s easy to forget them, perhaps because
we now take so much for granted the outcomes of their sacrifices.
But those who’ve fought over the past century for women’s
suffrage, for organized labor, and for racial, economic, and
social justice among other things, they’re American heroes
too. And perhaps because patriotism is the love and respect
for what makes one’s country what it is, we think it’s
time to remember them as well. Because patriotism is measured
truest by the risks we’re willing to take to protect the
future, the present, and the past we all share and justifiably
treasure. And it isn’t just our soldiers in uniform that
have taken those risks and paid the price, it’s many of
us who’ve loved and fought for our country, and that have
helped make and keep it what it is.
To the family of Trooper David Brinkerhoff, lost to them doing
his job of trying to keep us safe, we wish peace and the hope
of the theme of this offering, reconciliation. No process we
imagine, is harder to reconcile than the loss of those now gone,
with the good their passing helped serve. And yet that reconciliation
is as necessary as it is painful, as we somehow move forward
firmly rooted in what we’ve been through. That hope of
reconciliation of course, is the origin of our Memorial Day
traditions, which began almost as a spontaneous response to
a gruesome civil war in our not-so-distant past. And even as
the news brings us daily reminders of similar conflicts happening
now, the ironic juxtaposition between what we think of as our
regional problems and the life and death struggles encompassing
much of our world only underscores the simple fact we’ve
much to be grateful for.
Here of course the world we wake to now is good and rich and
the days are cool and blue and the landscape bathed in shifting
translucent greens. Our gardens are come to life, the songbirds
are everywhere and the caterpillars it seems have moved on.
We sift the soil with our hands and spades, trim back where
life’s exuberance has overgrown our aesthetic, and sort
flats of flowers for just the right ones and carefully tuck
in their roots. We reset walls the frost has shifted, stand
new buildings in the earth and resurrect old ones, and frame
our lives for the seasons to come. Each of these things is a
sacred act, binding us to a future and a past we share with
our families and with the wider family of our community. This
is as it should be, and as we pray it always will be.
On a sad note, we do need to touch briefly on yet another tragedy
involving some of our young people, cars, and possibly alcohol.
What we know is that Andrew Dean-Lipson is dead, at least one
other person injured, and the sadness coursing through the whole
of the Onteora community is palpably intense. To Andrew’s
family and friends, our hearts go out to you.
Please, everyone. Let’s be safe. Watch it out there along
Route 28 and our other high-speed, sometimes high-volume roads.
Let someone else drive if that might be smarter. And let’s
all just try and slow down a little. It’s part of why
we all live here to begin with.