I didn’t work much this past weekend. Thank heavens!  Sunday night I called the ER from dinner with my family, in order to speak to one of my partners.  ‘How did you know I needed you to call and offer to help?’ he joked.  Turns out our 20 bed ED had every bed full, four patients in hallway stretchers and 24 in the waiting room, with an average 4.5 hour wait to be seen at 9 pm.  Standard summer holiday weekend I suppose. I ultimately worked only Monday night shift, as the holiday tsunami was receding.

Still, I heard about some chaos and was witness to some as well.  A young woman shot in the head with a shotgun (who by God’s grace lived to tell about it).  A man slung into a dock while tubing on the lake, with fatal consequences.  And there were emotional consequences, as so many holidays seem to elicit.  When I came to work Monday night, there were five patients in the ED awaiting psychiatric evaluation or placement, and eight of the same admitted to the hospital waiting on psychiatric beds.  I know, it’s not much by big city standards. But it’s more than we’re equipped to handle having neither psychiatrists nor mental health case-workers on call.

All across the country, my brothers and sisters in arms were doing their best for the over-heated, over-fed, over-drunk and under-smart.  To quote the old hymn, America’s emergency care workers were busy trying to ‘rescue the perishing, care for the dying.’  In cities, towns and countrysides across this great land (the  freedom of which was purchased by the blood of those we were allegedly celebrating), there were meaningless shootings, stabbings, rapes, car crashes, boat wrecks, drug overdoses, fatal and near-fatal alcohol abuse, various assaults and all of the misery that usually occurs on any given weeknight, but multiplied and compounded by the tacit approval we give to madness on holidays.

So I started to think, maybe we need a Memorial Day Memorial Day.  Because down the years, untold  numbers of young and old, men and women have suffered and died because of a holiday ironically meant to honor the noble dead.  This time last week, teenagers were still alive and well; dreaming and hopeful.  This time last week, someone was planning that lake or ocean outing.  This time last week, no one envisioned bullets flying into them.   This time last week, no one planned to plan a funeral or was considering a life of paralysis.

It’s tragic, the way we respond to what is supposed to be a pleasurable time.  The way humans throw caution and wisdom to the wind for an extra day off, a party, a keg of beer, a challenge in a bar, a dare to climb a waterfall, a ride behind the  boat in the dark.  So tragic, in fact, that it bears reflection.

So here I inaugurate the Sunday, 6 days after every Memorial Day, to be Memorial Day Memorial Day.  On that day, we will mourn those lost for stupid reasons.  We will comfort those recovering from unanticipated tragedy, or suffering for the actions of others.  We will hold the grieving and remember the lost.  We will bury the dead and consider how fleeting our lives are.

And we will encourage all those we meet to approach every holiday with trepidation and forethought, so that they can always be alive and well to remember Memorial Day with us.  And perhaps to help us pick up the shattered pieces of the lives claimed by yet another good time.

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