Hello Fellow Readers, A Little Hope Foundation funded a recent Comfort Zone Camp supporting those who lost a parent, child, or sibling to suicide. The camp, held the weekend before Memorial Day, reflects the meaning of Memorial Day. Gratitude fills my heart.
History and Meaning of Memorial Day
Memorial Day originated after the Civil War (April 12, 1861, to April 9, 1865), when 600,000 soldiers died. Originally called Decorations Day, after President Lincoln’s assassination, it became a practice to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags in remembrance. The day of commemoration varied throughout the states.
President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor, and Confederate spy, who never joined the army, plotted the assassination after attending Lincoln’s speech promoting voting rights for African Americans (April 11, 1865).
The name Memorial Day emerged in 1882 and quickly became more commonly used. Finally, during the 20th century, it officially transformed into Memorial Day, celebrated on May 30, honoring all who died during military service.
It wasn’t until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that four holidays, including Memorial Day, moved to a Monday to create a three-day weekend. Since 1971, Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May. We honor and gratefully thank those who have served our country.
The Phoenix – a symbol of Rebirth and Recovery
Admiration fills my heart for the courage and resilience of the campers who attended last weekend’s Comfort Zone Camp (CZC), the fourth camp to include an adult program because of the need to modify protocols to keep families and volunteers safe during Covid.
The parent-guardian program mirrored the youth program– a combination of healing circles where campers can share their stories and fun activities, including a challenge course, always “challenge by choice.” But mental illness, like most physical illnesses, is not a choice caused by unhealthy habits. While the stigmas attached to mental illness have changed over the years, sadly, some remain.
Growth after devastating loss.
Each year CZC has a theme in the form of a pin. 2021’s pin is an image of a Phoenix, an ancient worldwide symbol of rebirth and recovery. When the mythical bird grows old (500 to over 1400 years old, depending on the legend), it flies into the sun and dies. But it rises again from the ashes, first as a worm. Then it grows to become a great sun eagle representing resurrection, renewal, and the power of transformation and spiritual growth after hopelessness and devastating loss.
Some say a Phoenix was the bird on the first Great Seal of the United States that became the National Emblem in 1787. Others report the history differently—that the initial image was a white eagle, not a Phoenix. After that, Charles Thomson, the secretary of Congress, assigned the final say and suggested replacing the design with a bald eagle.
Memorial Day flowers used to decorate gravesites include red poppies based on the poem titled ‘In Flanders Fields’ depicting them growing between the graves of fallen soldiers*. Poppies don’t fare well as cut flowers, though, so red and white gladiolas shaped like swords symbolizing strength and integrity are often the flowers of choice. Red roses, carnations, blue delphiniums, and Gerber daisies also are popular in tribute to our heroes. Then there are the adored petunias.
Speaking of flowers, there is a butterfly garden amongst the beauty of the Johnsonburg (NJ) Camp & Retreat Center, which hosted last weekend’s camp. Posted on the garden is a sign – “Planting in Progress. Walk Gently.” In other words, Recovery & Growth is in Progress. So be kind—Garden Dilemmas?AskMaryStone@gmail.com (and your favorite Podcast App).
This story is featured in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:
Column updated 5/28/23