Remembering and Forgetting

For many Americans, today brings with it a conscious act of memory--a visit to the cemetery the laying of a new wreath or perhaps just a long pause in silence.  Some people need to make no effort at all to remember who has been laid to rest; the grave is fresh, and so is the grief.  In some cemeteries, the graves of military veterans are tended by members of the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  And in other cemeteries, of course, the graves get no tending at all and are already thick  in grass by the end of May.  The dead grow more distant, year by year.  The living are so busy simply living.
       But if this is a day devoted to remembering, it's also a day that has to acknowledge forgetting.  The force of the season insist upon it.  So does the logic of time, which is an ethical mystery all its own.  It would be  good  to  find  the  very  old


grave of a soldier from long ago anonymous but still unknown and pay it a visit.  Pick up the litter, yes, but let the grass keep growing.  Stand where someone from an old war is lying, a veteran of the Civil war perhaps.  For a moment, you may wonder how that person died.  But what you'll really find yourself wondering is how he lived and what he knew.
      We will be forgotten in time, and our graves will vanish.  That doesn't sound like a May thought.  But that knowledge comes along with us to the graveyard, and the effect is not as somber as you might imagine.  The day is too bright, the sun too warm, the shadows too deep and green.  Memorial Day may be hazy with memory, but it is also drowsy with life.  Summer is in the next block, just around the corner, and summer is a season almost completely lacking in gravity.  It is meant for living in the oblivion of the present.