Memorial Day.

Executive Director
Selah Center

Editor’s Note: Today is Memorial Day. For most, the day is simply a Federal Holiday signaling the beginning of summer. But the holiday dates back to May 30, 1868, then known as Decoration Day; the holiday was proclaimed by Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic to honor the Union soldiers who had died in the Civil War. Mary Ann Williams is credited with originating the “idea of strewing the graves of Civil War soldiers – Union and Confederate” with flowers. Today I honor my father, James Madison Ragland who served with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War . Simper fie, Dad. – Debora Ragland Buerk, editor, Here & Now

On this Memorial Day, we take time to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of others, giving their lives for people they never met, only connected to by a common belonging – the fight for unity and freedom. Regardless of what you think of war, we must not forget that we receive the gift of freedom because of another’s willingness to die in service out of duty and loyalty. 

The African Ubuntu phrase “we are because you are” comes to mind as our lives are impacted by those who have sacrificed for something more than themselves. 

Those who have gone before, those who are, and those who will be through a fight for unity and freedom bring us together. (see below for the original “Decoration Day” historical meaning)

Elie Wiesel’s words remind us that “without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no future.” Our lives stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We have not evolved in a vacuum but in the substance of all that has happened. Our memory gives us a greater understanding of what’s important in culture, civilization, the future, and the present moment. “[M]emory is shown as an invitation to participate in a common set of meanings, values, and actions.” [1] As a culture and community, we act out of what we share.

For Selah, we recognize the value of the present moment. In a contemplative posture, we explore the present moment, the one we’re living right now – here & now. The present moment tethers us to present reality. By honoring those who have gone before, the memory enriches what makes this moment possible. The current fact needs to be rooted in what we understand of our past. General Logan, in 1868, after the Civil War, urges us, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.” [2]

For this Memorial Day, remember those who have given their lives for something more that transcends living this day while impacting today and our future.

[1] “Ethics, Religion, and Memory in Elie Wiesel’s Night,” Sandu Frunza, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Vol 2, Issue 26, (Summer 2010): 94-113


James Madison Ragland,
US Marine Corps


Mary Pandiani

Mary Pandiani, D.Min, serves as Selah’s Executive Director, leading the community and organization through its current transition period into future possibilities. Mary has served in various capacities for Selah, including as a founding board member, seminar/group leader, and co-facilitator for Selah’s extended programs, Living From The Heart and Way of the Heart. Mary is a spiritual director and coach, co-facilitator for a spiritual direction training program, and advisor for doctoral students. Mary received her Doctorate of Ministry at Portland Seminary, and her work focuses on a posture of contemplative living across the seasons of life. Her foundation starts with a love for the God who wants to be known and a desire to help others to pause-notice-listen-respond in ways that lead to a deeper understanding of God’s divine invitation. With the support of her husband Bill, Mary serves Selah while also enjoying her family of 4 adult daughters and their families. Mary lives in Gig Harbor WA where she knows the value of beauty in creation and the gift of community.