This post may be a day late—but Memorial Day got me thinking about this theme.
You may have seen my Facebook Post with the picture of my Uncle Bill. I posted his picture, along with the following words: "Remembering WILLIAM THOMPSON FROST (1922-1945). Killed in action during the recapture of Luzon, the Philippines."
In response to some questions raised in the comments, I added that this Bill Frost was the sibling next closest in age to my Dad. I have always assumed that my brother Bill was named for this uncle, although I don’t recall hearing my mom or dad make this connection.
I did not mention in my Facebook post that my dad and mom had two additional connections with Uncle Bill in the late 1980s.
One year, Dad and Mom invited Uncle Bill’s widow to join our family Thanksgiving celebration. We met at a central retreat location that year. In our conversations, we heard from her first hand about the tough realities of coping with tragedy of loss at the end of the War—a tragedy that affected her profoundly.
In about the same time period, Dad and Mom visited Uncle Bill’s grave in the Manila American Cemetery. The rows upon rows of white crosses assumed new significance as they visited Uncle Bill’s grave. Each of those crosses represented people—once energetic, living and breathing, who gave everything for their country—sometimes willingly; sometimes not—who left loved ones behind to grieve and to pick up the pieces with their own lives.
For some reason, yesterday I became particularly aware of the difference between a Memorial Day celebration and a very personal day of remembrance. I have celebrated Memorial Days before, and I have always known about the sacrifice Uncle Bill made. But yesterday it felt much more personal to me.
In fact, it drove me to a search through boxes and boxes of old files and pictures to even find this scanned copy of a picture. I never knew my Uncle Bill. But yesterday, he was no longer just a name or someone else’s memory. In some way I can’t explain, I felt connected with him.
There are spiritual implications here. There is a difference between an intellectual "remembering" or “knowing” and a spiritual connection. Just as our “remembering” can move from a thought, a visual record, to a heart-connection, so too our relationship with God can be transformed from an intellectual idea to a heart-felt relationship. That transformation is what the spiritual journey is all about.
The transformation has the potential to change our worship, to change our inner lives, to change our earthly relationships.
The dying thief said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). But there is an invitation for us to “remember” while we are still living, to keep connected. And when we remember, we also receive the assurance from Jesus that we will be with him “this day” in paradise (Luke 23:43).
So how do we achieve this transformation? The good news is that the transformation is not something we do for ourselves. The One who made us has already done the hard part. We simply let go of all that we cling to so that we can receive the gift that is offered to us.
But sometimes it helps for us to do something. So I suggest the following simple prayer:
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Amen.”