As we remember those who have paid the ultimate price to defend our country, I think a letter from President Abraham Lincoln will help us feel the impact of what Memorial Day really means to those who have lost loved ones. On November 21, 1864, President Lincoln wrote these words to Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Boston who had lost five sons in the Civil War:
“I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
I doubt anyone ever expressed anything so tragic to a grieving parent in such an eloquent and redeeming way. Lincoln’s message of sacrifice and redemption parallels that of Christianity—Christ himself was sacrificed on the altar of freedom. He lived the perfect life and then took our punishment on himself at the Cross. So as we rightly remember those who selflessly sacrificed themselves for our temporal freedom, let us not forget that Christ selflessly sacrificed Himself for our eternal freedom.