It’s Memorial Day. This morning I went to the local war monument and read every name that was engraved there. There were a couple hundred names, so it took me a while. And while I could have paid my respects with a few somber minutes of silence, reading the names of the fallen has a special meaning to me.
When we die, we leave this world for the next one and the light that is our life goes out. But when you die, you aren’t truly dead yet. The word “immortal” comes from the Latin word “immortalis.” Immortalis has two meanings, the first being “deathless, undying.” The second meaning, however, is “destined to endure forever, never to be forgotten”
When our body dies, we live on in the memory of those who knew us. Every time someone tells a story about us, the light of our life flares up again, though but for a minute. Eventually, however, those who knew us will die as well, taking their memories to the grave with them. In the end, when all memories of us have faded, all that remains of us is our names.
A name is a sacred thing. Your name is yours and yours alone. Your name is tied to the memories of you in the minds of others, and is a key part of your very being. So when all memory of you has faded and the stories of your life cease to be retold, the only way you can live again is when someone reads your name.
This is why we honor our war dead with monuments. Those who fall in battle have given us everything they were and could have been. They have sacrificed their lives for us, and as a small token of our gratitude, we seek to repay a small piece of the life that they gave. Thus we carve their names in stone so that every time someone passes that stone and reads their names, the light of their lives twinkles for a moment. It is all the immortalis that we as mortal men can bestow.
So the next time you visit a military cemetery or pass by a war monument, take a moment to stop and read a few of the names in stone. In so doing you will ignite a spark of life in the names you read, and for a moment, they will live once again.