Memorial Day 2017

If I had to guess, this will be one of my least read posts. Memorial Day was four whole days ago. In the world of immediate and instant "news," this will probably seem untimely and ancient. And that's ok. However, I really felt I needed to get this written out. If only for myself and Marcus and Julia. But, if you're one of the anticipated few to read this, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart.

When we woke up on Memorial Day we had nary a care in the world and zero plans mapped out for our day. I was sure we'd spend a few hours in the pool, toss some food on the grill, and run around with the neighbor kids. We'd call it a good day and we'd say it was a solid way to wrap up the long "holiday" weekend.

I started scrolling my social media feeds; I saw the all these beautiful scenes - much like activities we were planning to do ourselves - with a very rare Memorial Day tribute sprinkled in amongst the parties and beaches and beer.

And then I saw this:
Courtesy Tyler Christiansen
There are men I knew personally who went away to fight for our freedoms (two of whom happen to be in that list above), yet never returned home. They were fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, friends...

Memorial Day, the actual meaning and reason behind the day, seem to be all but lost among so many.
And, that lit a bit of a fire in me.

I couldn't just sit around with my kids and waste a day dedicated to men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice so we can splash in the pool, grill up a burger, drink a beer, and run amuck with our favorite neighbors.

I put Marcus and Julia in their red, white and blue, tossed them into the car, and we traveled to the Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Throughout our trip and visit I tried my best to explain to Marcus what we were doing, why we were doing it.

It was a tricky conversation to navigate, as death and dying are difficult and overwhelming to process as an adult, never mind a five-year old.

But, I did my very best to explain to Marcus that our freedoms don't come without cost. 

After walking around for a good bit, checking out different gravestones I pulled out some pennies I had brought just for this experience. I told Marcus to pick a few different stones to place the pennies on. 

A few summers back, while visiting Arlington National Cemetery, I learned there was significance to leaving certain items on the gravestones.

"Pennies are left on graves, most of all, in remembrance of the deceased. Leaving a penny from your pocket is a way to leave part of yourself at the burial site. The coin is a visual reminder that, even in death, the memory of the deceased lives on. It is also a sign of respect to the dead, as it shows that their memory has value to you and is something you want to commemorate.

This is a tradition held onto by members of the United States Military. The money left at graves in national cemeteries and state veteran cemeteries is left in place for a time, but it is eventually collected, and the funds are put toward the cemetery or paying burial costs for indigent veterans."

Again, another tricky thing to try and explain to Marcus, but he enjoyed finding gravestones to leave our pennies on.

We spent almost an hour and a half at the cemetery, well beyond what I had expected. And both kids were on their absolute best behavior (never mind Julia wouldn't wear shoes)

I know much of what we discussed during our time at the National Cemetery will likely be lost on Marcus, at least for now. But, if Scott and I do our jobs right, and keep teaching both kids how imperative it is to pay our respects, not only on Memorial Day, but everyday, then perhaps by the time Marcus and Julia are adults the meaning of the long weekend won't be lost on them.


  1. What a beautiful post & although I always make sure to acknowledge what Memorial Day weekend I feel like I should do more after this post. Your kids are lucky to have you teach them as they grow in this world.

  2. I think this is such a wonderful thing you did. Thank you. Although your children are young these memories will stick with them. When I was young my dad told me all about the Vietnam war. On our first family trip to Washington DC I knew there was a memorial but nothing prepared me for my reaction.I was 13 and remember it so clearly. I walked up to it and the tears just poured out. The sadness and grief there is indescribable. I read heartbreaking letters from children to their fathers and copies of letters from soldiers to their loved ones. Every time I return its the same reaction. Yes, Arlington cemetery and other memorials are also very moving. When my grandparents were still alive trips to the cemetery were a memorial day and veterans day tradition. Bringing flowers and cleaning not just relatives sites but other's also. So many important and touching lessons to be taught and hopefully carried on. As I said earlier these traditions and acts of thanks and respect were instilled at a very young age. I'm so very happy to have read this and learn the wonderful thing you did with your children. Trust me when I say that it will stick with them. I apologize as I tend to ramble but the day gets lost in a three day weekend full of parties and appreciated only for the day off. Thank you and your children from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Love everything about this Desiree! My boys are obsessed with flags right now and it has been th perfect opportunity to talk about what they are, what they mean, why we "celebrate". Sometimes the questions asked are tough, but it's so so important to have those conversations!

  4. I love that you did this with them and I love that you shared. No matter how "late" or "untimely". Sharing things late seems to be my MO lately, but I am always glad that I shared for memories sake. To be honest, I never really thought much in to the holiday. I mean, I know WHY we celebrate and what it means, but I've never known anyone who went or who didn't come back, so that list was very powerful to read especially knowing you know him AND even some of the people on the list. I think it's amazing that you took the kids there and while Marcus (and Julia) might not understand fully, I'm sure he did take something away. It will be interesting to see how much he remembers next year when you go back.

  5. This is wonderful and so SO important. In a world full of entitled and self-righteous individuals, I often wonder how I can raise little ones who are exactly opposite of that.. Instilling gratitude and an understanding of what/why/how regarding our freedom is a must, especially when it comes to those who have sacrificed everything. I love the penny idea, I haven't heard that before. Thank you for sharing and good job at being a parent. :)

  6. Love this, friend! You are such a good mama!

  7. I've never heard about leaving a penny before, but I'll definitely be taking some next time we visit our national cemetery! We always visit Jefferson Barracks on Memorial Day weekend to visit Brandon's grandfather's stone and pay our respects. Jude was too young to explain this year, but I think next year he'll be ready! Good job mama!

  8. Such a fantastic way to spend the holiday. I always get a bit jerked when people focus more on BBQs and drinks than the real reason we have Memorial Day to begin with. We went for a hike and meet a veteran and his family and they shared his story with us and Connor was prompted to tell him thank you for his service. Due to family ties, he knows that soldiers don't always get to come back home; we personally know the loss all too well. He does however remind us that we will see them once again because Jesus has them at his home for now. It's big, hard conversations but I am eager to see the understanding and respect in Connor's actions and words because of such talks.

  9. What a beautiful way to honor those who sacrificed everything and to teach your babes the true meaning of the long weekend, kudos to you lady!! I adore the bare feet :)

  10. What a good experience for them. We leave rocks on gravestones in our tradition. I had not heard of the penny custom but it seems like a great teaching moment for Marcus.

  11. Oh Desiree! This is awesome. I love that you did this with your family. I am going to do this next year with Mason. I've never heard of leaving pennies on the stones before. I love learning new things!

  12. I love that you did this! SO awesome and so sweet!