I spend much time around this wonderful, wondered Victorian home sitting in the middle of Downtown Phoenix. The third family to live in this home were the Higleys; their youngest son was named James (and he was the only son of Jessie Higley, as the oldest son was from Stephen Higley's first wife). There is a picture of Jessie, her young daughter Jessie Jean, and her little baby James. James is smiling, just a perfectly happy and cheery baby. So much more natural of a smile even than we tend to be used to seeing in old photos.
And then skip forward to the other picture of James, as a young man in his Army uniform. James died in France during WWI.
The beautiful, happy baby. The mother's child. The pretty little girl's little brother. Grown up only to barely grow up and then die . . . under what circumstances?
I used to have this great interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder geology. I enjoyed looking at her family tree, seeing her siblings and her parents and her mother's siblings and their children and her grandmother's siblings and so on. I also very much liked the modern-written Little House style series that focused on Laura's mother Caroline.
Being old enough to know what the Civil War was came at around the same time that I was looking at all of this geology--and seeing that Caroline's brother Joseph died in the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg. It was a heartbreaking link that I would always be able to take with me, to know that this boy I had met as a fictional character, this boy who was based on a real person, was a real person who died there on that field. He was Caroline's older brother. How did she feel when she learned he was gone? Did she think about him sometimes when she was with Laura? When they were on the long wagon rides or surviving the relentless cold of the famous long winter?
Real people with real lives. Real pain and real loss.
Memorial Day is to remember them . . . and not all of them died so many years ago.