Memorial Day Lessons
This past week, during my son’s field trip to Carbon County, I visited a cemetery in Scofield. The day before we visited the Western Mining and Railroad Museum in Helper and learned about the mining disaster on May 1, 1900 at the Scofield Winter Quarters Mine No. 1 and No. 4 where 200 miners were killed.
Of the 200 miners killed, 149 were buried at the Scofield Cemetery. A monument at the entrance of the cemetery tells us “the loss of 200 miners in the Scofield Mine Disaster left 107 widows and 268 orphans.” In an instant, more than 300 lives were changed. This story was repeated this past week when 301 miners were killed in a mining disaster in Turkey.
Tragedy and death surround us every day and while death is part of life, maybe we can learn something from the stories of these miners. A worker at the museum in Helper told us that it was tradition for miners to kiss their wife before leaving for his days’ work; they were intentional realizing that tragedy could strike them that day and they may not return home for dinner.
Each day, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers do not return home. Unexpected tragedy strikes leaving widows and orphans. Memorial Day offers the opportunity to remember not only the reality of death but also our need to live with deliberateness; living deliberately has two parts.
First, it means to live each day intentionally. Like the miners, we would be wise to intentionally tell those that we care for that we love them. We all expect that there will be one more moment, but the reality is that a day will come when we will not be able to tell others our love or hear from them of their love.
Second, we are wise to consider the eternal question that death brings. Hebrews 9 tells us, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (27-28) Here we find two truths as work. First, the judgment that all will face in death, and second, the promise of salvation given to those who know Christ.
Death is a difficult subject for us to face because of its finality. However, the promise that we have in Christ is that we do not need to fear death. Hebrews 2 reminds us, “Since the children have flesh and blood, [Christ] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (14-15)
The fear of death can immobilize us but in realizing that Christ has conquered death and promised us eternal life, we can then face death with hope. This hope is not only for us but also for those who have died before us. The promise is not only for our deliverance but also for all who believe. Paul in 1 Corinthians asks rhetorically, “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (17-19)
However, the story does not end here for as Paul concludes, “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.” (20) Those who have died with a saving faith in Christ are with him. On Memorial Day if we visit the graves of those we have loved we can do so with great hope knowing that they are with Christ if they have place their faith in his atoning sacrifice on the cross.
Memorial Day should then not only be a time to remember those that we have lost to death but also a time to look to the future with hope. Christ has purchased for us a hope that extends beyond the grave, with a hope that has conquered death. This Memorial Day as we consider the sacrifices that others have made for us, may we remember how Christ sacrificed his life so that we may have eternal life.