Before You Fire Up That Grill….Give Thanks. To Him. And for Them.

Before you fire up the grill on Memorial Day by Karen Ehman at KarenEhman.com

Memorial Day.

Here in the Midwest that means getting a jump start on yard work. Planting colorful flowers or healthy vegetables. Grilling out. Maybe fishing. Or taking in a ballgame.

Oh yeah….and maybe we might remember that the original intent of the day has something to do with soldiers.

Not soldiers who are enlisted today. Not even the ones who bravely served in years past.

I mean the ones we can only see today by visiting a cemetery.

When we were first married and didn’t have children, we often “borrowed” our good friends’ son Andrew.

Todd reading Andrew “Uncle Wiggly” before bed. It had been a long day of painting for both of them. {We let Andrew “paint” with a water bucket & a brush}

He loved “putting on his worker belt” and helping me clean and scrub. Or having Todd read him the book Uncle Wiggly. And eating my homemade oatmeal cookies. Lots of them. {Shhh..I never let his mama know!) And playing pretend by protecting me from any approaching enemies.

Andrew always wanted good to win over evil. As soon as he was able, this blonde-haired boy became a military man.

On Christmas Day in 2006, at the age of 19, Andrew was killed in Baghdad by an IED just shortly after arriving there.

Our small town rallied to support his grieving family. Our old gang of girlfriends from the church we attended back when Andrew was little all went in to buy his mom Tami diamond earrings to wear in his remembrance. His dad Al now has a wall in his local business dedicated to the military heroes with ties to our area.

Al and Tami, along with  Andrew’s two sisters, grandparents, and other family members and friends, miss him terribly.

Every. Single. Day.

Both Todd and I had instilled in us a thankfulness for veterans and service men and women and tried very hard to pass that on to our children–Yes, you will stand up when the flag passes and put your hand over your heart. And yes, you will stop whatever you are doing when you see someone in uniform and go over and thank them for serving our country. Non-negotiable. {This past post from my then 18-year-old daughter shows it just may have rubbed off}

However, I still don’t think I really “got” Memorial Day until Andrew……I mean Private First Class Nelson….. died serving. And I still don’t totally get it. He was like a son when he was little. But he wasn’t actually my son.

So before you fire up that grill and enjoy times with friends and family this weekend, give thanks to God for our freedom.

And to the little ones like Andrew who grew up and put off having that backyard barbecue in order to put on a uniform. And the ones who died in past wars to ensure your right to host that barbecue in the first place. Or to attend that church service. Or to speak your mind freely.

And if you know a family who has lost a military member, why not give them a call? Or take them a meal. Or flowers. Or kidnap them and take them out for coffee.

Why, you could even invite them to a barbecue.

But remember, Memorial Day barbecues cost a lot.

And I’m not talking about the price of hot dogs.

Similar Posts


  1. Oh Karen, thank you for making this holiday post so real and personal. We are so blessed and you are so right, the cost has been high. Thanking God today for the precious lives spent on our cherished freedom. I think it’s awesome how you’ve instilled this respect in your children, I only hope I have done the same. Blessings!

  2. Thanks so much for this post-although I can barely type through my tears! What a moving-and eye opening post! I lost my Dad on board the Intrepid in 1963 when I was only 3 months old. Although I never knew him, I have always mourned for him, specially on Memorial Day. As I approach the age of 50, I can look back and see God’s hand in my life and know that the events He has allowed have put me where I am today.Nothing happens to us that doesn’t go through HIS hands first! Let us never forget to pause, remember and honor those who have fallen, because freedom is NOT free!

  3. Thank you Karen for posting this. It really means a lot to us! I thank God every day that Andrew had accepted Jesus into his heart, I know I will be with him again one day. I’m sure that yours and Todd’s influence in his life helped him make that decision, and for that we are grateful! I know there are a lot of great stories to share about Andrews time with you guys, but one of my favorites is when his head got shut in the silverware drawer! Thanks again! Love you guys!


    1. Al– Haha! I remember that! You guys have much to be proud of. Can’t wait until we are all in heaven and can see Andrew again. :-) Praying for you this weekend.

  4. Karen, thank you so much for this heartfelt and challenging post. It seems the spring time is always so busy that before I know it we are at Memorial Day and I always feel ill prepared for paying the proper respect to the true meaning of the day. I am grateful for your admonishment and ideas, I will be sharing this with my family and many others!

  5. Wow…..I have always been a patriotic soul, trying to instill the same thankfulness and patriotism in my children, but wow, this just brings it home; how often we do forget and then for you to have that personal reminder of someone so close. I know Memorial Day is a remembrance to those we have lost in the service but also look back over the past year or years and send a card or make a phone call to others who have lost children, parents, sibling in the past year. It hurts still. I know. My brother died in a farm accident in 1986 and my mom from cancer in 2004. All that’s left are my dad and me and I miss the rest of our family. Praying for our country and those who are currently serving and those who have served and maybe didn’t make it home (and also those in Oklahoma and Sandy Hook).

  6. Speaking from a bereaved mom’s point of view. This post will be a BLESSING to Andrew’s mom. How very kind of you to share. For me, it’s a beautiful reminder to remember and be thankful.

    1. YES Kelly, how true that is, so very very precious, I had an emotional day today with my family going to the Capital and the Governor’s home for a Memorial Day rememberance for the fallen and then I can across this post from Karen and it meant so much and was heartwarming, but made me cry too. I’m so sorry for your loss too Kelly. God Bless

  7. Thank you, Karen for sharing your memory of Andrew and also reminding us all what Memorial Day truly represents. Blessings!

  8. Every time I think of Andrew, I remember a photo my mom has of a very, very young group of Williams, Ehman and Nelson kids all sitting on our stairway with a variety of things over our noses, pretending we’re pigs. I don’t remember what led us to do that, but many aspects of that one visit are still lodged in my brain.

    Now, so many years late, I often wonder why the memory of that night is so vivid to me, when so many others are not, and I think that perhaps God wanted it to remain there…to help me appreciate his sacrifice that much more.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      I was trying to remember this time that you are remembering and Im not sure when it was, can you tell me more about it and about yourself? I love hearing stories and memories of Andrew. Thank you

  9. Wonderful reminder of how very special this holiday is, Karen. Thank you so much for writing this. God bless America and all of our military – past, present, and future heroes!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *