Memorial Day During COVID-19

After the Civil war, which ended in the spring of 1865, Americans across the land, independently began to visit the military cemeteries in their communities. They respectfully began to “decorate” the hallowed graves of the fallen soldiers with flowers, flags, and prayers.

This naturally evolved into more elaborate remembrances. Towns would close their shops and have parades with flags and music and decorate main street. This holiday, which was known as Decoration Day, then evolved into the national holiday of Memorial Day which is always observed on the last Monday in May. It used to be a Civil war holiday, but now it commemorates all the fallen warriors in all wars including Iraq and Afghanistan.

memorial day

Memorial Day in a Pandemic

Like so many of our national holidays, Memorial Day has its lighthearted traditions. It is the unofficial start of the summer season. It is also the time that stores have their Memorial Day sales and a time that Americans love to travel.

This holiday weekend is the first time in 20 years that AAA is not issuing a Memorial Day travel advisory forecast. Last year AAA commented that 43 million Americans traveled for the Memorial Day weekend. This year will no doubt be a new record for the lowest number of travelers.  Clearly, many folks do not want to travel due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those who will travel, it is important to be mindful of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.  You could be exposed on the beach as easily as in the grocery store; follow guidelines and practice social distancing,

Even if you stay home and have a barbeque in the backyard, things are different. If you are elderly or have a pre-existing medical condition, do not share food or drinks, or utensils.

Nothing to fear but fear itself

This pandemic has been with us for months, and has been called an invisible enemy, that is both powerful and dangerous. It is not the first time; we have faced an invisible enemy. 

The Great Depression was a time in our history when Americans also faced an invisible enemy.

In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his inaugural address. It was a frightening time. The Great Depression was destroying families, and the Great Drought stripped topsoil causing Dust Storms throughout the Great Plain states and 2.5 million Americans had to leave their homes.  

As poverty raged during the Depression; Diphtheria, Tuberculosis and scarlet fever increased around the globe.

FDR, spoke to the American people during these horrible times, with the words of hope that apply today as they did in 1933.

“This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat in to advance.”

As a child I used to sing a song that was written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov , which I now appreciate for the deeper meaning of the lyrics.

"The entire world is a very narrow bridge,
A very narrow bridge, a very narrow bridge,
And the main thing is to recall,
Have no fear, have no fear at all."

Years ago, on my first trip to Costa Rica, I trekked across the Sky Walk Hanging Bridges at the Arenal Sky Adventures Park. This is a 3-hour hike through the rainforest over a series of narrow, wooden suspension bridges.  The lyrics of the song were in my thoughts; have no fear, have no fear at all. 


Yes, it is scary, but it is also exhilarating. Yes, one must be careful and cautious, but with proper care and due diligence it is an amazing experience.

In addition, when a person crosses a narrow bridge, the scenery changes, from the beginning of the bridge until they reach the other side.

Life is like a narrow bridge as we cross from infancy to childhood, and childhood to young adulthood, and then from adulthood to old age. Each crossing can be frightening but have no fear because life is a narrow bridge.

And finally, when you meet a fellow traveler on the narrow bridge, be sure to accommodate, by making room for both travelers to pass.

We are traveling through an accelerated time of deaths, financial loss, accommodations, and a new way of viewing each other and the germs around us.  Fear is a good thing when it propels us to act in a safe manner.  Fear is a bad thing when it controls your life to the point of depression or throwing caution to the wind thinking, “who cares it’s going to get me anyway!” 

If you see people this weekend not behaving appropriately and not taking the proper precautions, please DO NOT JOIN.  The pandemic is not over, yet. STAY SAFE. 

ENJOY the Memorial Holiday in a safe and mindful way.  We need to celebrate the memory of our heroes, who because of them we are safe and can continue to be safe in the most wonderful county in the world.

Think of Robert Frost and how he ends his poem and think of me singing as I get over that bridge.

Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.  
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