Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Memories

Memorial Day 1998. Photo by Mother (Rose). which is why she is not in the
 picture. From left: the Birdies, the Russells, the Bakers.
2000--Rose taking photos of
Steven and Megan.
Memorial Day is now a federal holiday, but it began as a day to remember the Union dead from the Civil War. It was called Decoration Day and the dead were honored with floral decorations upon their graves. Over time the meaning of the day expanded to include honoring all soldiers from all wars; and now, families use the day to also remember and honor all their loved ones who have moved on to eternity. When I was growing up, the day was still called Decoration Day more than Memorial Day, but I like the new name because it more clearly identifies the purpose of the day--we remember.

2000--Mother (Rose) in a very familiar
pose; ready to take a picture.

Many years ago my mother, Rose, made it her special mission to decorate family graves a day or two before Memorial Day. As time went by she was joined by any of us who happened to be in town and available. As we went from grave to grave we talked about the person whose grave we were decorating and shared precious memories. We, the living, also just enjoyed being together. We took photos; the little ones, who had no idea what it was all about, enjoyed playing with each other.

2001--Taking a rest under a tree; Grandma Rose and Steven
2004--Part of the group that gathered for decorating.
This year the weather was cold and rainy as the holiday approached. On Sunday there was a break in the weather just long enough for a few of us (Grace, Anne Marie, Chad, and I) to dash up to the cemetery and get the flowers on all the graves we take care of. As we finished the clouds had closed in and it was starting to rain again. Because of the weather, we did not linger and visit and share memories this time.

As the years have passed, some of the former decorators are now among those we remember as we place flowers upon their graves. There is sadness, there is gratitude that they were part of our lives, there are warm reminiscences.

2005--This was a difficult year, as Jerry was now one of those
whose grave we were decorating; his gravestone was not yet
ready. Megan is sitting by Grandpa's grave.
2012--Anne Marie, Chad, Grace by family graves. Photo by Michelle.
Through the years we have had many family get-togethers on Memorial Day. When the weather was good, this involved a picnic-type lunch eaten outdoors. Sometimes these gatherings were at Mother's, sometimes at Grace's, sometimes at Anne Marie and Chad's, sometimes at my place. Those present at the gatherings varied from year to year. One thing about these Memorial Day get-togethers, to decorate the graves or to share a meal and fellowship on the actual holiday, is that they bond us to both our living family and the family that has gone before us.

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