Dedicated to Unfinished Work: Memorial Day & the Songs of Our Forebears

by May 26, 2021Smoke Signals0 comments

Dedicated to Unfinished Work: Memorial Day & the Songs of Our Forebears

by May 26, 2021Smoke Signals0 comments

Good morning. Spark up an herb tree. Sip some coffee, tea or any sacred rite that suits you. Lean back and say “Ahh….”

This Memorial Day, remember: You’re not the beginning. You’re a breathing continuation of a grand manifestation. You are your ancestors’ dreams.

Or as Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address — a speech so concise it’s 19th century slam poetry:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

At Bear Blend, we’re dedicated to ritual and ceremony as a way of aligning ourselves to a greater divine purposea sense of remembering we’re all part of a grand spiritual tradition seeded in fire, stone, and smoke.

That’s why we dedicate ourselves to Memorial Day and those who died serving in uniform.

It is a connection to the dead that reminds us of the essence of life. Remembering those who came before is an ancient tradition. In almost all cultures, death is celebrated. It’s more than an end to life on Earth — it’s the beginning of a new story in the spiritual domain. The dead would be buried with food, gifts, and herbs to carry them forth. Bodies were washed with natural yucca suds, dressed in their Sunday best, readied for the journey into the next brave new world.

Put on those walking shoesstroll into a new consciousness of wind, trees, and living blue oxygen connecting the Sky as one. 

Some day, each of us will take that step — begin our own new journey on the ethereal plane. This Memorial Day, let’s remember those who have already gone on, the ones whose beginnings began the story we each continue with every new waking day. 

The Historic Origins of Memorial Day

Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War. It’s exact origins are hard to pin down — more than 25 locations claim to have begun the tradition. Some even credit Abraham Lincoln with his grand Gettysburg slam.

In the wake of the Civil War — the bloodiest conflict in American history — numerous communities began the tradition of decorating and honoring the graves of fallen soldiers. 

One of the earliest was a parade of 10,000 recently freed slaves in South Carolina, who marched to honor 257 dead Union soldiers, reburying their remains from a mass grave in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. “Oh when the Saints go marching in….”

Memorial Day has been an official federal holiday since 1971. It took a couple of years for some states to get involved, but the American recognition of the kick off of summer was inevitable. It’s hard to argue with BBQ and a Monday off from work. But let’s not forget why we’re here — “to be dedicated here to the unfinished work….”

Or as the poet Pablo Neruda said: “For the dead there’s land enough.”

So Much Land, So Many Flowers

And land there is — acres and acres of rolling crosses like a green galaxy of lilies. It’s enough to make Pete Seeger cry.

Where have all the young men gone? Picked in full bloom, from the very beginnings of spring.

The Civil War, whose bloody trauma first inspired Memorial Day, stands as the bloodiest conflict in American History — at roughly 600,000, enough to encompass all other wars combined. On average, 425 soldiers died every day.

World War II comes in at a close second, with roughly 400,000 Americans killed, followed by World War I, at almost 120,000. Both World War I and World War II saw 100 and 200 American soldiers killed every day respectively.

Fathers. Mothers. Children — practically. So many children.

For the Breathing Earth

So much land. So many flowers. The lilies grow to remind us that the land — and the history, dead, and the memories it contains — is alive and breathing

In the Native American tradition of animism, the Earth, the wind, and the sky are alive — living, breathing beings with feelings of interconnected purpose. 

Or as Slow Buffalo, an ancient teacher, is remembered to have said thousands of years ago: 

“Up in the heavens, the Mysterious One, that is your grandfather. In between the Earth and the heavens, that is your father. This Earth is your grandmother. The dirt is your grandmother. Whatever grows in the Earth is your mother. It is just like a sucking baby on a mother. . . .”

We, the living, have so much to do to consecrate the dead, beginning with building peace and a better world for the Earth, the sky and the environment that sustains it.

As Lame Deer says

“We must try to use the pipe for mankind, which is on the road to self-destruction. . . . This can be done only if all of us, Indians and non-Indians alike, can again see ourselves as part of the Earth, not as an enemy from the outside who tries to impose its will on it. Because we . . . also know that, being a living part of the Earth, we cannot harm any part of her without hurting ourselves.”

I remember a parade in Athens, Ohio in the early days of the Iraq War. The guns went off in salute. With each loud crack, peace activist Art Gish screamed, “Stop it! Stop it!”

Stop it.

Because don’t blame the soldiers. It’s the politicians with their suits, pens and martinis who march the sons and daughters of the poor off to die and lie like flowers on the hill. 

For the dead to not die in vain we must struggle for peace with each and every ounce of our might — with our ballots, with our marches and signs, with our cries in the face of the gunsmoke.

Stop it.

Because peace truly is the unfinished work to which we must resolve — so these dead shall not have died in vain. This Memorial Day, we dedicate ourselves to creating a new day, a new world, of sustainable creativity, from the dirt and soil of everything that’s come before. 

Let flowers cover the graves — life grows.

Mathew Gallagher

Mathew Gallagher

Wordsmith Specialist

A freelance writer for hire, Matt Gallagher is the face and voice behind Web Copy Magician. He enjoys Bear Blend as a tea to spiritually reconnect with nature and the therapeutic wonders of chlorophyll.


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