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Around Town: Public and private memorials

May 27, 2010|By Anita Brenner

Memorial Day means different things to different people.

For some, it is a chance to proudly watch their Brownie Girl Scout participate in a flag ceremony.

There is nothing wrong with that feeling.

For others, it is a chance to smile as they watch their kids parade, roller blade, stroller-stroll, or ride down Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge's Memorial Day Parade.

There is nothing wrong with that smile.

For others, it is a day out of a busy schedule, to dust off the barbecue, to reconnect with friends or to sit around the swimming pool.

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There is nothing wrong with these wonderful moments.

But for others, the center of Memorial Day is the need to remember those who have been killed in wartime. For the veterans who take the stage, this is the one day in La Cañada Flintridge when they can give voice to their memories of fallen comrades.

Elianna Yolkut, a conservative rabbi, recently pointed out that memories and memorials can simultaneously be public and private. The public memorials are the stories we tell, the anecdotes that we are able to put into words, experiences that we are capable of sharing. There are also private memories, the touch of a hand, a particular scent, or what the departed meant to us. Those private memories cannot be put into words and cannot be shared. Memorial services are important because they allow us to experience our unspoken memories in a community setting. This gives us strength.

Rabbi Yolkut's words allowed me to take another look at our Memorial Day services in La Cañada Flintridge's Memorial Park.

When you bring your child to the Memorial Day Service on Monday (and I hope that you will), you will be giving your child the gift of community.

The ceremony itself is a public memorial. When your child hears the names of the fallen, he or she will have the tangible gift, in this transient world, of roots. Your child will have the knowledge that these names are not from some history book or movie. These are the names of many boys and two girls who lived here, in La Canada Flintridge, who walked down Foothill Boulevard, stood near the same park, worked, loved, attended school and enjoyed a good barbecue.

For many of us, the ceremony also evokes private memories. For me, Todd and J.P. are not merely names on a plaque. When our veterans take the stage, your children will witness a public memorial. Our veterans will simultaneously experience their unique private, unspoken memories of their lost friends.

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