Today’s title comes from the words of one of my favorite hymns, “Be Still My Soul.” It presupposes that a time for remembering comes first for the sorrow that Memorial Day signifies. The entire line is “When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,/Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.” In this version by Gentri, we learn about the arranger’s experience at the passing of his mother. He felt peace, finally, but not until he allowed it to come through a surrender to it. Oddly, or perhaps not, this version was sung yesterday at church, also by three tenors. I want it sung at my funeral, along with “Now Let Us Rejoice,” a pairing some find, well, funny. Which is fine. I will be glad of my going, though none of you must go first, please.
A word about the writer of the text: Catharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel (22 October 1697-after 1768). That’s how she appears in Wikipedia. All that is known about her is that date of birth, that she lived in a Damenshift in Cothen, and that she wrote a letter to August Hermann Francke in 1726. That’s not much to know: That “after” means she was still alive in 1768. Sad, if you think about it. Two years ago, I invited readers to “Write yourself down” on Memorial Day. Schlegel’s paucity might encourage you.
On Google, the theme today includes an invitation to observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. Major League Baseball games cease, Amtrak trains whistle, hundreds of other participating organizations find a way to commemorate a holiday that too few understand. The Act, passed in 2000, can be read here; it contains not only the basic call for a time to reflect on the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice but also an invitation to pray for “permanent peace” and to reclaim the day as “the sacred and noble event” that Memorial Day is intended to be. Since I will need a strong reminder to remember, I’ve set my alarm for 3 p.m. Thank you, Google; I’d never heard of this Act before. Note, too, the date, well over a year before what we now refer to only as 9/11.
This month’s edition of Imprimis is so good, better than anything I can write, that I started just to post it for today’s offering. That’s probably cheating, so I’m not. But I invite you to read it. The title is “Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery.” Tom Cotton, a current Arkansas senator, was in the Army and served as part The Old Guard, the group that places flags on every grave at the cemetery—200,000 of them—and conducts all the funerals. Rain or shine, never cancelling. His description is moving and beautiful, and he includes the history of the cemetery, some of which is complicated but worth the read. Most remarkable, though, is his conclusion:
“No one summed up better what The Old Guard of Arlington means for our nation than Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey. He shared a story with me about taking a foreign military leader through Arlington to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Sergeant Major Dailey said, “I was explaining what The Old Guard does and he was looking out the window at all those headstones. After a long pause, still looking at the headstones, he said, ‘Now I know why your soldiers fight so hard. You take better care of your dead than we do our living.’”
Yes. We know about sorrow. Until the time when we are granted the peace to forget it, we honor it, and those whom we loved for it.