Between 1866 and 1868, with the civil war finally over, John Logan, a Yankee General is
given credit for leading an effort to establish a Decoration Day to honor the half million dead of the Civil War. It would be a day to remember the fallen soldiers and decorate their graves with flowers. This Decoration Day became nationalized as the last Sunday in May and officially known as Memorial Day.
Decoration Day caught on in the south and became a localized affair with local communities designating a date in the spring to remember and honor all the dead, not just fallen soldiers. It soon came to include, picnics, ballgames, and reunions as well as religious services. Today, it has dwindled to a few who still gather at cemeteries to honor with their flowers and presence those known, loved and learned from, and even those perhaps not known personally, but who being a part of the community, contributed norms in some way to those who came later.
Paul Apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16 of a “light affliction of the moment.” Resting and waiting in the graves are some who had “afflictions of the moment” measured in decades. For some it was a few years, for some it was only days…or perhaps hours. He also mentions in the same text “the things that are seen.” To borrow this imagery for a moment, in the cemetery we see headstones, stone markers, and on Decoration Day, fresh flowers. Paul further remarks on “the things that are not seen.” We at present cannot see but only remember lives that were lived, wisdom taught, influences left, and…smiles.
“The things seen are temporary,” he writes, and we further recall wrinkled faces, tired bodies, weakened voices, trembling gestures, frowns and tears. But we know that the unseen things, the reality, abide with and beyond the soul where the unseen moments are to be no longer lost as soon as they arrive. Moments of birth that arrive and pass, first word, first step; moments of childhood that arrive and pass, first grade, first friend; moments of youth that arrive and pass, first date, first job; and Senior moments that arrive and pass with glasses and grandchildren, lost keys, lost thoughts, and finally a moment of death which shuts out the seen and the temporal…
and opens the “unseen” door, the Eternal with God, (and I say nothing here about the Eternal without Him). The Eternal with God becomes the age of actual fruition of life, like buds and blossoms becoming fruit and seedlings becoming trees. The shadow of death is vanquished by the light of Jesus - Jesus, our kinsman who the grave could not hold and who bridged the temporal and the Eternal.
What we see on Decoration days are temporary tombstones. What we do not see is perfected, unlimited life.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16