Memorial Day

From a Homily on Memorial Day

At last the woman who had been sobbing outside of the president's office was granted entrance. She explained that her husband, fighting in the war, had gone missing and with it the money he had been sending home. She begged the president to discharge one of her two enlisted sons, as she had no means of support. Abraham Lincoln, staring at the fire, hands behind his back and head bowed low, simply said, as if speaking to himself, “I have two you, you have none.” The president walked over to the desk and wrote a note of discharge.

Several weeks later the same woman appeared in the executive mansion. Upon entrance she explained to Lincoln that she had located her son who was stationed in a small town named Gettysburg, but that she had arrived too late. He was already in the ground. Through tears, the woman asked if the president could write a note for her other son. Similarly as before, with head bowed low facing the fire and hands behind his back, Lincoln stuttered, “I have two, you have none.” He went back to the desk after a pause and wrote a second note. It was said that the woman accompanied him to the desk and “smoothed his thick and disorderly hair with motherly fingers.”

We celebrate with parades and barbecues on Memorial Day, but we ought not forget those who died in service to our country and the families who mourn their deaths. We can show compassion, as Lincoln did. The best way to do so is by prayer; to pray that the deceased are at rest in heaven and that the mourners' anguish may be assuaged. We will be confident, then, that these dead will not have died in vain.

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