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The Zak Zone

May 23, 2012

Out in the garage, there is an old box full of trophies that were given to my brother at one point or another in his athletic career.

When he moved to Canada, he didn't have room to take all of his loot with him in his pickup truck, so he had to prioritize and make decisions about which things were essential for the trip.

The box of trophies missed the cut, and he left us with the option of seeing if there was someone who might be able to make use of the trophies and possibly donating them to that cause.

But in that box of trophies lies a plethora of memorials — memorials that by simply reading each placard across the bottom can whisk me back to those bleachers watching Marc and his friends make a run toward states in Little League All-Stars.

And with Memorial Day fast approaching — and as I'm preparing a message for a Memorial Day service hosted by the Reynoldsville Eagles Sunday — I've been doing a lot of thinking about those and many other memorials that we've kept around to remember another time or place or person.

Memorial Day is meant to honor those who have done so much to serve and protect the freedom that comes with being an American, and that cause is one of the most worthy causes of memorials — especially those who have gone before us serving or having served.

But after paying due respect to the warriors who have given their all, I always start thinking about Memorial Day in a broader sense.

That box of trophies is just one of the various types of memorials I have surrounded myself with.

Just this past Sunday, a beautiful memorial and a recognition service was given for fans of the Rossiter Miners — a team rich with tradition — who passed away during the offseason.

Local baseball fields are often named in memory of someone who contributed to the development of that particular team.

Memorial tournaments are held on a regular basis in memory of someone who meant something to a sport — whether it be a volleyball tournament or a softball tournament.

But the memorials extend far beyond the sports realm, as well.

When I'm walking down the street, and something peculiar catches my eye — a feather blowing in the wind, perhaps — I often pick it up and put it in my pocket, only to find it later and be reminded of what a cool sight it was to see it dancing and reminding me to slow down and take it all in for a moment.

As a writer — and a forgetful one at that — I often have to jot down little two- or three-word notes to myself as a reminder of an idea that crosses my mind before I totally lose it into the cluttered abyss of my so-called memory.

And as a fan of photography — a love passed on to me by my mother, who always had a camera in her hand when we were growing up, documenting our every move from sports to school — I have continually been reminded of just how memorial-esque a photograph can be.

I have photographs of my entire family posted on the wall above my computer screen at work to remind me of just how much they mean to me.

I also have a few pictures posted of Photoshopped images that make me chuckle or grin — again taking me back to a time that, for one reason or another, I want to hold on to forever.

Some of my favorite pictures are ones of my niece, who lives thousands of miles away. But because of the gift of photography, and especially digital photography, I have concrete memorials to the precious moments I've been able to spend with her.

Those moments are ones I never want to let go of, and because I have those photographs, I never have to let go.

I believe I've mentioned before that I have one picture of my brother playing baseball that I've always loved.

He was catching in a game — I believe it was a high school game — and an opponent tried to jump over top of him to reach home plate.

When they collided, the sports photographer at the time captured the perfect look on my brother's face as he tagged out the other player, preserving the run.

The picture isn't just a memorial to that particular play. It's a memorial to the fact that Marc gave it his all in everything he did and a reminder of why I looked up to him so much — and still do. He was a hard worker and a good teammate — on and off the field — and that picture reminds me of that each and every time I come across it.

One of the joys of my job is having the opportunity to capture similar memories for parents, though I've never taken a picture that I liked quite as much as that one of my brother.

But whether your memorial is a trophy, a photograph, a tombstone or a loved one in the flesh, Memorial Day is about taking time to remember all the blessings.

We are incredibly blessed for the troops who have served and who continue to serve, and on this holiday meant to pay respect to those who perished in battle and those who served in battle and have since been taken from us, remembering that blessing is a top priority.

But we also must continue to rejoice in the many blessings that come upon us and remember to make memorials to those days, as well.

A picture, a saved letter or a notecard with a few words to remind us of those days can do so much to encourage in the darkest days.

Sunday, as I stand in front of so many who have served for our country and so many others who love and respect them, I can only hope that a smidgen of what I say translates into a memorial for them — a reminder of a bright spot in their lives.

We all need a little sunshine in the dark days. May this weekend be bright and sunny for you and yours.

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