Monday, October 31, 2016

On Memorials & Why They're Important

A few days ago I visited the The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. While there I searched for and found a memorial brick my father purchased for his father -- my Granddaddy Dykes.
MSG Newton E Dykes, 819th Tank DST BTN "We Love You Dad"

Each section is marked to help you find "your" brick.

What surprised me how emotional the experience was for me. I cried when I saw it -- especially those words "We love you Dad." WE. Even though  my father was an only child, and he's the one who purchased the brick. We. My father knew the memorial wasn't just for one person, it was for all of us, for everyone, even those who never knew my grandfather. I don't know, it just touched me something fierce.

And it's got me thinking about how important it is to remember the people we love who have died. How these memorials, however permanent or semi-permanent, connect us to one another as a community, as a species. For two blocks along Magazine Street in front of the museum there are hundreds and hundreds of bricks, just like my grandfather's, but with different names. Other people come and find "their" bricks just like I did. We all share the same grief, the same love.

Which makes me especially grateful when I think about my father's bench in front of Bismarck Cancer Center in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was installed shortly after his death this past June. I haven't seen it yet in person, but I will. I will go sit on it, and I will remember. And yes, I will probably cry. And then I will be connected to everyone who has or ever will sit on that bench bearing my father's name.

"Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."
In Honor of Ken Dykes
Bismarck Cancer Center Executive Director

Beautiful, isn't it?

Another thing that surprised me: how much I loved "in honor of" instead of "in memory of." Honor. Now that is a lovely lovely thing. My father would have loved it. I'm so grateful to Bismarck Cancer Center, especially new executive director Amy Gross, for making it happen!

More on my trip, including the Louisiana Book Festival later this week. And: are you a subscriber to my email newsletter? New edition coming later this week that will include a giveaway just for subscribers... sign up here.


  1. I always so enjoy your posts about your father. xo

  2. Oh, that touched my heart. It seems your Grandfather passed on honor to Mr. Dykes who passed it on to you and your family. A continual keepsake.

  3. Beautiful. A bench is a beautiful memorial and honor. One of my favorite books on this subject is THE MONUMENT by Gary Paulsen. I absolutely adore it. xxx to you, friend.

  4. So beautiful, indeed, Irene. A gift for your family, your father's community and complete strangers. Thank you for sharing. Reminded me of my post a few years back about my collection of park bench epitaphs - and look! You commented on that...


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