Photo by Flickr user EscapedtoWisconsin

Yesterday was Pearl Harbor Day.  Don’t feel bad if you didn’t remember.  I didn’t turn on the TV all day and didn’t think about it until my head hit the pillow last night.

Reflecting on what Pearl Harbor means to me, I was struck by how far away (in time) the event feels, and yet, how relevant it all still seems.

The attack on Pearl Harbor helped push our country into the thick of WWII.  Those first bullets and torpedoes fired from a Japanese plane occupy such an important place in our history, as their effects reverberated through the lives (and deaths) of so many young men and women of the era.

Without the Pearl Harbor attack, my grandfather, who I wrote about in the post, A Death in the Family: Part 2, might not have enlisted in the Army and would not have been shipped off to England.  He wouldn’t have married an English woman and had two children before divorcing and returning to Michigan. 

How many others found their lives irreversibly altered on December 7th?

I thought about this because we don’t “commemorate” the victims of Pearl Harbor on December 7th the way we commemorate all military forces on Veteran’s Day.  Placing flowers or flags on the graves of those who experienced the attack firsthand might honor their memory, but identifying and locating the graves might be harder to do.

But so many others were affected by that day!  Why should we reserve the “commemoration” for only those who were in Hawaii that day?

So I thought I’d tell you blog readers to put some flowers or U.S. flags on the graves of all WWII veterans this week. 

But then I realized that I’ve already talk about this and many funeral homes already do that at other times of the year.  So I researched the blog (over 1,000 posts on lotsa topics, so it took some time) and realized that I’ve shared a lot about placing flowers on graves, like these posts:

Memorial Day: A Fistful of Flowers and Flags
A Trunk Full of Flowers

But then my thoughts took a wide turn toward a bigger idea (falling asleep really jumbles up my brain!).  Why should we restrict flowers or flags to military personnel?  And why do we have to put our name on the bouquet?

What if there were a “secret flower giver” who started putting beautiful arrangements on graves?  Would people start talking?

Better yet, what if your community were struck by a “secret memorializer” who placed a wreath, with a photo and life story, in public places every few weeks?  Would people talk, tell their friends, report it to the police?  Would the local news station run a story on the sitings?

What am I saying?  Heck, I’m saying that someone ought to be that “masked memorializer” and start sharing these life stories in places other than just the funeral chapel.

Want to do it?  First, you have to forget about publicity.  This isn’t about getting your name in front of every person who sees your work; your aim is to create a strong impression with those interested enough to find out more.  You’re also looking to create buzz.

Secondly, you can’t just memorialize people whose services you handled.  It would become pretty obvious that you were only looking to publicize yourself if you do that.

How would this work?  You’d select some people to remember.  They can be city founders or influential neighbors.  Why not choose some local teachers and church members who always worked behind the scenes?

Next, you get some beautiful wreaths made by your local florist.  But make sure you swear the florist to secrecy!  Heck, you might negotiate a good discount from the florist for the publicity he/she will get when the story breaks.

Alternately, you can use an artificial wreath and change it every time you change the person being remembered.  If you plan to continue this even after you’re discovered, it would be nice to lower your recurring costs.

You should print a photo of the person (if available) and their story.  You might include relevant sources for more information about their life or the work they did while alive (“To donate to Johnny’s favorite charity, contact Hospice at…”).

Now, choose a popular local place to situate the memorial.  It should be on public property, unless you can swear another local business owner to secrecy.  Just make sure that wherever you put it, it won’t be easily removed by a code enforcement officer.  Hopefully, the sacred nature of a memorial will make any public officials think twice before removing it.

And don’t tell anyone that you’re the person doing this!  It should be a quiet gift to your neighbors.  In fact, humans are so curious, if this is a truly interesting project, they’ll work to find out who did it.  You will probably have more trouble trying to keep  your identity hidden!

Make sure you change out the wreath at an appropriate time when no one is expecting it.  You want to create buzz over a few weeks before it’s revealed that you’ve been the one working to remember so many fine people from your community.

Hopefully, this type of random, unmotivated sharing will encourage others to see you as someone who truly appreciates your neighbors and their important life stories.

Of course, if you try this, let me know how it turns out!