When you live and work in a military community, as I have for so many years, Memorial Day is bittersweet. Yes, it’s a much-needed day of rest before the end-of-school-year craziness begins. Yes, if you’d like, you could go to the beach or the river or the lake … or you could go to the mall and buy things. But the purpose of the day, to remember those who gave their lives for their country, can get lost among the cookouts and the beach trips and the sales.
I’ve been working on a new set of Tres Columnae Project stories this morning, a set that I want to use with the “beginning branch of the Latin Family” this week. They fill the gap between Lectio XIV, where the marriage of Valeria and young Vipsanius is arranged, and Lectio XV, where the Valerius family travels (oddly enough, by land rather than by sea) from Herculaneum to Mediolanum to visit the Vipsanii. And they serve to explain why that overland route was necessary … and to reveal parts of a mystery that will continue to shape and deepen the storyline for those who want something deeper. The Latin Family looked at the first five of six of them last week, and we’ll be reading the others in the last few days of “regular” classes before Final Exams. They’re not directly related to Memorial Day, I suppose, but they are related to the themes of loss and longing, of duty and sacrifice, that come to mind at this time of year. The “intermediate branch” of the Family has been reading a related set of “extra” stories, too, and they’ll be looking at these stories over the next few days.
Duty … and sacrifice. Leaving behind something you value (your home, your family, even your life) to pursue a greater good. It’s hard for many of us to imagine such a thing as we sit in our comfortable, air-conditioned houses, contemplating what we might do on a peaceful holiday Monday. But for Steven, a “life member” of the Latin Family, and Jim, whose son was a “life member,” the sacrifice was real and permanent. I’m thinking of them today, thinking of so many wars and so many centuries and so many empty places at so many holiday tables. As we work to build joyful learning communities, as we build meaningful things together and share our sorrows and joys, let’s take a moment to remember and honor those who gave their lives.
Best wishes to everyone for a thoughtful as well as happy Memorial Day.