As we embark on the Memorial Day holiday, I’m looking forward to an opportunity to rest, recharge and rejuvenate; and I’m sure you are, too. Yet the Memorial holiday wasn’t originally designated to provide a post-busy season 3-day weekend. Instead, Memorial Day was set aside to encourage us to remember those who gave their lives as active-duty armed service men and women.

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the men and women of the armed forces for defending our freedom and putting themselves in harm’s way so that we stay safe. A month or so ago, as I was receiving my 2nd COVID-19 shot, I was served by fearless men and women from our local military base who were running the vaccination clinic so that my family – and so many others – could be safe from the deadly effects of the virus. The selflessness they demonstrated by meeting with the unvaccinated masses while also making US feel welcome and safe, was humbling and so encouraging.

As we approach Memorial Day, let’s especially remember, pray for, and honor our military personnel – active duty, retired, and killed in action – as well as our first responders and healthcare workers who have been on the front lines of this pandemic, working tirelessly to minimize the loss of life. Let’s also remember the 606,230 men, women, and children in the U.S. and 3.5 million globally, who died as a result of COVID-19 and will not appear at their family’s holiday picnic this weekend, or ever again. I am especially remembering Joseph Tuszynski, the son of a dear family friend, who died in late April at age 52. I am heartbroken for this loss and for all those who died.

While grief at our loss is expected and must be processed, we should also be present to the rising hope and possibility as the virus abates. We should allow our spirits to lift as we emerge and re-engage in social activities, in-person collaboration and family gatherings and once again hug, kiss, and commune with our loved ones. I have had the privilege of participating in a few of these gatherings the past month with my vaccinated family members, including my beloved parents who, at 91, have remained safe. The joy and gratitude that we have made it through to the other side of this pandemic is indescribable.

As we head into this weekend, I pray for those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones and thank God for the courage and sacrifice of others, and all the blessings received in this wonderful life. You are one of these blessings to us and we are so grateful for your friendship and support during this incredible, challenging time.