Memorial Day has three purposes. First, it's the unofficial start of summer. Second, it's a patriotic holiday, a sort of lite Fourth of July. Third, it commemorates the sacrifices of veterans, a tradition that has expanded to varying extents from area to area to a more general honoring of loved ones who have passed on.

I can't do cemetery visits, as everyone I knew who's gone has been cremated, but I keep a text file of brief descriptions of memories I have of departed loved ones, and for the past few Memorial Days, I've taken to setting aside an hour to look back on these memories, person by person. Time is the enemy of the mental image, and reliving these memories keeps them fresh, keeps them alive. It fortifies those defining moments, such as my dog Sarah sitting happily in the grass of a campus park beneath a white cherry tree, panting with goofy cheer in a storm of petals. It helps recall the sensory part of their presence, such as how my cat Brambles, bitten in the throat by a wild animal after being tossed on our lawn as a kitten, had to burble his way up to meowing but was always sweet and expressive enough to give several strong mews in various inquisitive tones once he got going. I remember how Grandpa Wayne, father of a family friend, always had to sneak the family dogs some food despite express prohibitions, and how Art, a mechanic by trade, helped teach me how to drive. It can even spark other memories - usually, each year, I'll add a couple in the course of the hour.

It's a downright useful, accessible, and, I think, suitable ritual for the holiday that I'd recommend to anyone. This year, it even got me going through old photos. Above, not far out of puppyhood, is Sarah of the cherry blossoms and her sister, Luna, known for her on-point critiques of Lunar titles.

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