One of my favorite family holidays is Memorial Day. And, not just because it’s a day off from work that’s usually celebrated with the breaking out of white pants and a huge family BBQ. But, because it’s a time to REMEMBER family. It’s a time to remember the loved ones that came before and to celebrate why you’re here.
As long as I can remember Memorial Day was a time that we visited and decorated the graves of our loved ones. Before my Aunt passed away last year she would usually include personal stories she had of each relative at each grave we would visit. As a child it seemed like an eternity, but now as I have grown older I see the wisdom in those visits and stories.
Even my Grandma’s stories of her parents and siblings have helped keep their memories alive. I am grateful that I have those stories handed down to me. Not just from verbal stories, but written down in a family history. Two years ago my Grandma wrote down her entire family history. What an invaluable keepsake. Her history book is something I will always cherish.
Reading about my Great Grandparents’ trek from Greece to the coal mines in Carbon County has made me appreciate their sacrifice. They made that journey not just to have more opportunities for themselves, but for their future generations. I can’t help but ask myself what I have done with that opportunity? Am I living up to their sacrifice? Am I taking the opportunities they came here for?
I am reminded of a story that my Grandma repeats quite often of my Yia-Yia Dakis. Just after World War II she prepared herself to become a US Citizen. My Grandma and her siblings helped prepare her by quizzing her on American history, knowledge and the like. After successfully passing the citizenship test and being sworn in the presiding judge proceeded to ask the new citizens what they planned to do next with their newfound freedom. Going down the line many of the new citizens answered that they planned on getting a new car, build a house, vote among other things.
When the judge got my Yia-Yia her response was simple, “I want to learn that algebra that my Katie (my Grandma) is learning in the school.” Of anything and everything that she could have chosen, she wanted to learn algebra. How simple the American dream can be, and how we then to take for granted some of the littlest things.
My Yia-Yia’s story is just one of hundreds of stories I could recount and remember this Memorial Day weekend. Each one is just as profound and memorable. Whether it’s my Great Grandma Hansen sending off five sons to World War II, my Great Grandma Pederson faithfully feeding the passing Indians soup in Fairview, Utah while her husband worked in the mill or the numerous Mormon Pioneer relatives that crossed the plains to come here to the Salt Lake Valley.
Their stories only die when we forget. That is why it is important to never forget their lives, memories and sacrifices. Because without their existence … we are not.
Happy Memorial Day!