“… for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” William Shakespeare
This coming Monday our nation will celebrate Memorial Day. This day has become synonymous with family picnics and time off. But for the families missing a loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, the day must be both a welcome day of remembrance and a heartbreaking reminder of what has been lost. The day represents not just one emotion; rather, it is the delicate balance between both/and.
Both/and thinking is a collaboration of the mind, a reckoning of two opposing thoughts, a marriage of misfit ideas into one whole certainty that acknowledges not everything is black and white. To me, the concept of Memorial Day is a synergy of both/and thinking – we remember with both gratitude and sorrow; we pay respect with both gratitude and humility; we honor with both love and regret. What does it mean to remember or memorialize? It means that the heart can feel both immense joy and desperate agony to bring back the life that was lost.
News programs will surely flash the faces of the moms, dads, wives, husbands, and children who are learning a “new normal” because of their loved one’s sacrifice. And, while these stories are often difficult, they are also peppered with happiness, as memories of the past are fondly recalled. They are sentimental combination of both/and.
In a recent blog I wrote about our selling our family home. This was the home in which John and I were planning to raise a family of five with our dear twins, Jack and Annie, and another young soul we had yet to meet, but were desperately hoping to add to our happy home. But last month we moved out as a family of three, having both the exuberance of a now six-year-old young Tommy, and the grief for Jack and John whom we miss so very much. And, while the life we lived in that home was not what any of us had imagined it might be, it was a beautiful picture of both/and. It was both happiness and heartache, laughter and devastation . . . it was the good things and bad things, all wrapped together to create the memories we tuck in our hearts and carry with us as we move forward. It was both/and.
Over the years, I have had (and continue to have) people comment they don’t know how I do it and am able to continue to move forward in spite of hospitals and suffering. And, while I may question that from time to time myself, I still have countless fond, loving memories of our time together, regardless of where or how that time was spent. There were nerf gun battles, scooter races, pizza parties, movie nights, and a lot of laughter in spite of the hospital setting or IV poles in our family room. These moments were, by their very nature, a contrast in both/and.
Grief is something no one ever ‘moves on’ from. Grief lives in both the head and heart and, once is takes up residency, never leaves. And while the hope is that the happiness will one day overshadow the sadness, to pretend they both don’t exist together at the same time, is to do a disservice to those grieving and the memory of those lost.
So, on this Memorial Day Weekend, as you celebrate all that the holiday means for our country, or for you personally, I encourage you to rest in both/and. Celebrate the shadows that are found in the sunshine. Remember that a sacrifice is both hard and beautiful. And, be hopeful in the midst of both the broken places and the new beginnings. Live your life in the both/and.