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​The second Saturday in May they always appeared, side by side in the refrigerator, in perfect white boxes tied with gold cord. Sometimes they were roses, sometimes orchids. Always they were chosen to coordinate with dresses to be worn by my mother and grandmother the next day. They were one way my father annually honored both his wife and mother on Mother’s Day. The regularity of this simple gift spoke volumes to me, my brother, and my sister. It reminded us of the importance of not only loving our mother, and communicating that on a regular basis, but also setting aside time to honor her on special occasions. It emphasized to us the importance of remembering.

Two weeks after this event came Memorial Day, a time when we honor those who have gone before us and given their lives fighting for our country. Because of them we enjoy the freedoms we have today. Our farm family frequently spent the day making hay—it was that time of year in Missouri. But Mom always remembered to get out the flag and fly it from the front porch—no matter what we were doing. It made us reflect on where our freedom to make hay came from in the first place.

Hundreds of miles away, at the same time we were making hay, my husband’s family in Michigan was enjoying a slightly different observance of the day. His family typically made their semiannual trek to the cemetery on Memorial Day. Flowers were placed on graves or planted in urns as people walked among the grave markers and talked quietly of those who had died. It was a day for remembering.

Remembering, recalling, and respecting are vital to families. We need these times when we touch our roots, connect with our past, and recall the hard work, courage, and dedication of those who have gone before us. We need these intentional moments as inspiration for our future. According to Bill Doherty, author of The Intentional Family, “Only an Intentional Family has a fighting chance to maintain and increase its sense of connection, meaning, and community over the years” (p.8).

So how might you do this? Here are just a few ideas to consider trying this year with your children or grandchildren.

  • Attend a Memorial Day parade and talk about why we celebrate this holiday.
  • Fly a flag as a sign of respect for those who have died so that we might be free.
  • Place flowers on the grave of a loved one. Help children count the number of flags in the cemetery. Talk about why we honor those who have gone before us.
  • Dig out the photo albums and show children pictures of family members living and deceased. Talk about the stories of their lives—especially those who may have served in the armed services.
  • Remember a veteran. As a family, send a personal thank-you note to someone who has fought in a war or served in the military.
  • Send a care package or cheerful note to someone you know who is away from home serving in the armed forces.
  • Attend a Memorial Day celebration. Listen to or read a patriotic speech and talk about the meaning of loyalty and allegiance.

About the Author

Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at [email protected].

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