The freedom to be happy

Decoration Day.

A day originally set aside to remember soldiers lost during the Civil War, adorn their graves with flags and flowers, and honor their service to the cause no matter on which side of the Mason-Dixon line they spilled their blood.

Memorial Day.

The same day as Decoration Day. The unofficial official beginning of summer. A time to put that Hawaiian shirt on, fire up the grill, ice down some beer, and celebrate the leisurely, beach-bum lifestyle you wish you had the other 364 days out of the year.

Every year, on the last weekend of May, the two are mushed together into a three-day long celebration of family, fun, and friendship, summer, service, and shopping, oh…and remembrance of the dead, military or otherwise. I hate it.

Or at least I used to.

You see, Memorial Day is the anniversary of the absolute worst day of my entire life – the day I found out that my first husband was having an affair with my so-called friend – and that they had been, in fact, in flagrante delicto for years. YEARS! It was the day that I realized that a big fat chunk of my life was a big fat lie. It was the day that I suddenly became a single mother. It was the day that my belief in common decency and trust in anything that seemed real shriveled into a dry, empty husk and blew away on the May breeze.

And along with it went a perfectly good holiday, an excuse for a garden party, a reason for dry rubs – all ruined.

“Why don’t you just forgive and forget?” they all said.

Because some wrongs are just flat unforgivable. They, by their very nature, so fly in the face of all that is right that one cannot, should not, ignore, condone, or excuse them. And to forget…well, to forget would be to lay yourself open to be wronged again. Fool me once and all that jazz.

“Why don’t you just get over it?” they all said. Because there are some things you don’t get over. For those of you fortunate enough to have not walked a mile through the Courthouse in my pumps, a divorce is like a death in the family. And, when combined with the ultimate betrayal of not only your husband, but your so-called friend, it is more like double homicide.

But time slowly erodes the sorrow, the anger, and the hate. The pain dulls. And, much like the death of that loved one, while you’re not necessarily thrilled that it happened, you learn to cope.

Then, ultimately, new life comes to replace the one that was taken. Happiness is restored. And you find yourself much better off than you were before. Almost grateful, even, for the selfish, horrible acts that catapulted you kicking and screaming into a brave new world.

That’s why this year, along with the rest of America, I will dust off my blender and don my flip flops and head out into the summer heat, not dwell a life lost, but to rejoice in the freedom that loss brought me – the freedom to be happy.

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