Memorial Day has a long and rich history dating back to the mid-1800s. The United States government sanctioned Memorial Day as an official holiday in 1971, to be recognized on the last Monday of every May. Traditionally, this holiday was created to honor those who were serving in the military and died during wars and armed conflicts. More recently, that tradition has evolved into remembering all those who have left us behind and have moved on toward the greater spaces of Heaven.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation that designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. National Police Week has grown into a large event where thousands upon thousands of people make their way to Washington, D.C., to pay homage to all law enforcement professionals who have lost their lives in the line of duty. I have made that trip several times, and every police officer should do it at least once in their career to have a full understanding of the respect, love, compassion and caring offered by not only your brothers and sisters in uniform, but also the public in general.
We, as law enforcement professionals, know all too well that the profession we have chosen is a dangerous and grueling one. Each year we lose so many of our colleagues to murder, accidents and suicides. The numbers are staggering. We grieve our losses, we get counseling, we seek refuge within our religion and we close ranks, holding our family closer than ever before. It’s what we do and it’s how we cope. Life must go on.
Each of us has likely already lost a family member, a partner, a friend or another significant person sometime in our life. Sadly, I’m finding that the older I get, the more likely that seems to occur.
So why do we have Memorial Day and Police Week? We are the living, and those who have passed before us would want us to celebrate their lives. Yes, it’s important to remember and honor them, but it’s just as important to live life to the fullest, just as those before us would have wanted us to do.
I choose to allow all the people I knew who have passed and who I’ve loved, befriended or admired in my lifetime to live forever within me. From time to time, my mind will wander and I will remember a particularly funny event we shared or a moment of wisdom that person bestowed upon me. I choose to honor the living moments I had with each of these people and keep their spirit alive and well, therefore ensuring that their life and ultimate death was not in vain.
My own father passed away before my children were able to know him, experience him and create memories with him. I took all those great memories, idiosyncrasies and values I was able to experience with my dad and made them come alive so my children could benefit from who my father was and all he had to offer me, my family and everyone he was able to touch. My father doesn’t have to be with us here on earth for my children to understand what kind of man he was and what he stood for. Since he is no longer alive, it’s my responsibility to ensure that they know as much about him as I can teach them.
This May, I ask all of you to take some time to remember those people special to you who have passed, and honor them as they deserve. Even more importantly, I ask you to ensure that whatever it was about them that you cherished, loved, honored and appreciated is passed on to others. Allow others to know what you know about that person, share funny stories and pass on the wonderful ideas your loved one expressed to you. We can learn a lot from those who came before us and are no longer with us. The learning process begins with you.
I, like so many I know, have lost too many friends and colleagues serving our communities for the greater good. They are remembered for the honorable lives they led and for the goodness in their hearts and minds. May the spirit of each of them touch your soul, so that you are a better person because of the lives they led and the good deeds they did.
As always, be safe!