When small sacrifices have big meaning

Today’s post was supposed to be about memorizing Scripture — a follow-up to last week’s post about handwriting the Scriptures — but we’ll get to that next time. I wanted to use this space to tell you about an unexpected pleasure I had this evening.

Dad's grave with U.S. flag

Dad served in the National Guard. The spelling of his first name is Bennie on his birth certificate and Benny on other documents. Most people called him Ben. Lots of my friends in youth group called him Uncle Ben.

After I had made my daily trip to the local convenience store to get my ginormous glass of ice tea — because I’ve lost my ability to make great iced tea at home (insert the saddest emoji you ever saw) — I decided to mosey over to Emily’s grave again. I wrote about Emily and other family members after my trip to the cemetery on Easter weekend.

The lanes in that cemetery, as in most cemeteries, are narrow, and when I drove up, a very nice lady, Susan, was putting U.S. flags on the graves of her loved ones. She apologized for blocking the lane and said she was almost finished, but I told her not to rush. I got out and looked at the graves she was fussing over (her in-laws’) and mentioned that I wasn’t sure whether Emily’s parents would be visiting this weekend, because there’s usually something new on her grave when they’ve been to town.

Susan said she had an extra flag, and she handed me one, plus a flathead screwdriver to bore a hole in the hard dirt.

Emily's grave with U.S. flag

Emily never served in the military, but she sure served Jesus in her short little life!

She told me exactly what to do, because she’s been putting flags on graves in that cemetery for several years — not just those of her loved ones but on the graves of other veterans who have passed away.

It touched me, and it made me a little embarrassed at how cavalier I am at Memorial Day, Independence Day and other holidays where our nation remembers and honors the men and women who have dedicated their lives to our freedom. On some of those holidays (Memorial Day and July 4), I have the day off work, and on others (such as Veterans Day), I go to the office.

It’s awfully tempting to think of those occasions as just an extra day off work (although I appreciate every one!), so I’m grateful that this evening I met Susan and got a reminder that it’s not a burden but a PRIVILEGE to take a few minutes to remember and to honor.

Susan’s father-in-law served in World War II, and her son is deployed now.

I think that having someone close to you who has served or is serving gives you a heightened sense of their sacrifice. (The families sacrifice, too, in ways the rest of us probably will never understand.)

After I left Emily’s grave, I drove across to the other side of the cemetery, where Dad is buried.

Someone had put a U.S. flag there, too.

Then I walked over a few yards to the grave of Emily’s great-grandparents. Yup. A flag on her great-granddaddy’s grave, too. Dad’s flag and Richard’s flag looked identical, from the same batch, so I suspect that the same good soul had planted them. (Thank you, whomever you are.)

Some people never serve a day in the armed forces, but they serve our country, just the same.

People like Susan remember. They honor and respect. They give. And they don’t consider it a burden to take the time to buy flags and drive around the cemetery putting them out, even on the graves of someone they never knew. Or to hand an “extra” to a stranger.

I imagine they consider it their duty, in a sense — contributing in their own small way to what makes this a great country.

But it isn’t small at all.

Blessings,

SuzyOakleySignature

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Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley, writer • editor

Writer, editor, blogger. I love books, baseball, Bruce and Jesus, not necessarily in that order.
  • Tanya says:

    LOVE this! Thank you, Susan and Suzy! Just wondering—did Emily’s grandpa (whose grave is by hers) get a flag? He’s a Navy veteran from the Korean War, but I don’t remember if there is any marker that tells that.

    • Suzy Taylor Oakley, writer • editor says:

      Tanya, I didn’t notice (kicked myself later for not doing that before I left that area), but I’m about to head back over there in a few minutes. If there was a flag on it, I’ll snap a pic and send it to you.