By Judy Bluhm

Did you enjoy this past Memorial Day weekend? It signified the remembrance of those men and women who served in the military and did not return home so that we could have the remarkable freedoms that we enjoy. Flags flying, parades, memorials, picnics, family gatherings, three-day weekends, bagpipes playing … what better way to start off the summer? That’s right, I said “bagpipes playing,” because nothing quite evokes such deep emotion and dignity like listening to a group of pipers play at a Memorial Day ceremony.

So why the bagpipes at American funerals? In the 1800s, Irish immigrants were often employed in dangerous jobs such as police officers and firemen. At the funeral of a fallen comrade, the bagpipes were always played, and this became the traditional ritual for a hero’s final goodbye. During the 1970s, the Scots Guards (one of the Foot Guards’ regiments of the British Army) was on tour in the USA and played “Amazing Grace,” since making it the most requested tune to be played at memorials by pipers.

The Memorial Day weekend is too important to not go out and pay tribute to those who serve their country and communities. This holiday represents the larger portrait of Americana — the reminder that freedom is never free and that as far as sacrifices go, some gave all.

I recall going to the Veterans Cemetery as a child, standing before a sea of tiny flags that waved briskly in the breeze, each standing at attention at the base of a flat gravestone. I would run around and try to read as many names as I could, wondering how they died, figuring out how old the soldier was, reading the words scrawled on the headstones. Fresh cut flowers or round wreaths, looking like sad little life preservers, were placed lovingly on numerous graves, making the cemetery come alive with color.

Then there would be the lady who could be seen sitting in a lawn chair on her son’s grave, or the child who would bring hand-drawn pictures to a gravesite, bravely saluting a father he might never have known. Parents and friends gather, children run or skip on grassy knolls, bagpipers and a drummer in the distance playing a solemn hymn. The stark contrast of the hope of a spring day, with flowers blooming, birds singing and flags flying, set against the backdrop of a broken heart and a piper playing is the poignant snapshot of the day.

Memorial Day weekend reminds us to remember. It causes us to pause out of our busy schedule of barbecuing with friends and family or having a leisurely three-day getaway, to recall those fallen comrades and all that they stood for — and left behind. Some people today are not having a barbecue. They are going to cemeteries across this great nation to pay respects to those we lost.

Summer is officially here — ushered in by a very memorable weekend. It helps us put everything in perspective, allows us to ponder the bigger world issues at hand, makes us rethink our choices and appreciate all that we take for granted. God bless America.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor.  Have a story or a comment? Email her at judy@judybluhm.com.