What we have come to know as a “three day weekend” began in the grieving hearts of those who had survived our nation’s deadliest war. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed by General John Logan and was first observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. But in 1867, even before Logan’s proclamation, Nella Sweet composed the hymn “Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping” to express the depth of her sorrow:
Kneel where our loves are sleeping, Dear ones days gone by,
Here we bow in holy reverence, Our bosoms heave the heartfelt sigh.
They fell like brave men, true as steel, And pour’d their blood like rain,
We feel we owe them all we have, And can but weep and kneel again.
Since we have been spared the great horror of watching a war on our own soil, we have been spared the agony of watching the evils and sacrifices of war up close and personal. But when we learned about the death of Stanley Wilson, the Dallas Firefighter who surrendered his life while searching for a boy in a burning condominium, we are reminded what it looks like to sacrifice your life for the life of a stranger in service to your country or community.
Each year, our President reminds us that “Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values,” and the President will ask us to stop at 3 PM on Monday for a “National Moment of Remembrance.”
On Monday, may we bow in holy reverence as we kneel in spirit where our loves are sleeping.
(Dr. Todd Pylant is the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Benbrook in Fort Worth, Texas, and the author of Word of God Speak and If: the Conditionality of the Gospel and the Danger of Apostasy.)