Your father was a drunk, your mother spanked you mercilessly; but the fourth of the ten commandments says you must honor them. Why should we honor those who have hurt us and what lessons do we find when we do?
The fourth commandment tells us to honor our father and our mother that our days be long upon the earth, that earth given to us by God. For Jews, Christians and Muslims, these are admonitions that remain eternal, as narrated in the Bible in the Decalogue, a compilation of stories, parables and laws by which many millions of people are to live. But those principles have value for the atheist or the person of an entirely different faith, for the benefits are significant to us all.
To honor those who give us life, physical or spiritual or both, we remember the source of life itself. We recognize that were it not for the mechanism of birth and the fusion of two people there would be not life at all. We owe then our very lives to those who gave us life. For those who gave us spiritual life, who raised and loved us, they too bring a special type of birth, that of the recognition of the soul that is eternal and that part of God within us all.
When parents have been neglectful, we learn by loving anyway the value of love itself. For it is easy to love those who outwardly love us and far more difficult to love those who show us nothing or give us pain instead. When we can love in spite of that, we learn how God must love. For He too loves the wicked, not the wickedness, and loves us all as children of this earth.
We honor parents also because of what we learn from mistakes they made, the life they lead and the path they take. Our choices can be different; that is up to us.
Memorial Day is a time to set aside for those people who have died or who have sacrificed for us so that we can live with freedom and with love.
So in the memory of that fourth commandment, and in recognition of those who move beyond the ordinary to love when none seems returned, we turn our faces to and in doing so we honor the very Creator of us all.