Memorial Day 2011: Remembering more than our veterans

This coming Monday we, in the United States, will celebrate what has come to be known as Memorial Day. It was originally named “Decoration Day” and there is some question as to the actual beginning of the observance. Women in the South were decorating the graves of the Confederate dead before the end of the Civil War, but the first official observance came with the declaration of General John Logan (a Union general) when flowers were placed on the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. The northern states and southern states celebrated Memorial Day on different days until the end of World War I, when the observance “remembered” all those who gave their lives in service for their country, not only in the Civil War, but in all wars. Until 1971 it was observed on May 30th, but then Congress changed the timing to the last Monday in May to insure a three day federal weekend holiday.

While I have always appreciated the men who fought for the great country in which I live, May 30th has always been special to me for a different reason: It was my Mom’s birthday. Ruby Mae Jordan Rankin was born on May 30, 1919 in Hardin County, Texas, just a few hundred feet from where I now live. She was the fourth of seven children born to Jim and Dora Jordan, and married my Dad on May 22, 1939 in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he was stationed in the U. S. Navy.

My mom was always quiet (I have seen her talk on the telephone to her sister for an hour and say nothing but, “Hello, yes, yes, uh-huh, yes, yes, good-bye”) but she made a profound impact on my life. Although she was never in good health (she contacted spinal meningitis right after my birth and suffered from high blood pressure and TIAs for years, before battling early onset dementia in her 70s) she and Dad consistently brought their three children to church, and read the Bible and prayed with us. She was an example of a woman who, although she lived a quiet life at home raising her children (heaven forbid that a woman should choose to do that! [please note: sarcasm]), she was used by God to mold and shape not only her children, but also others who God brought into her life.

In her quiet way, she pointed me to the grace of Christ, taught me of the love of Christ, lived a life as an example of Christ, and was also very adept at using those very thin women’s belts on my legs when she really needed to get my attention. There will be no biographies written about my Mom, and no TV mini-series developed about her life, but I am so grateful that the Lord, by His grace, kept her from being seduced by the spirit of the age, and saw fit to place me in that loving family of Christians during my formative years. So, on this Memorial Day, I will remember those who have fought and died for our nation’s freedom, but I will also remember the woman who battled the world, the flesh, and the devil to raise her son to trust in Christ as his only comfort in life and death.

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