Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Do you go to the cemetary on Memorial Day?

I belong to a discussion board which is frequented by 3000 or so women. Today, I read a post where one member was asking what everyone was doing this past holiday weekend. She had several responses, but not one person said they had actually gone to a cemetery.

I was floored. Going to the cemetery is just what you do on Memorial Weekend. Now, when we lived in Colby, granted, we didn't go to the cemetery there, because we didn't have any friends or family members buried there. But, whenever I've been at my folks' for the holiday, I've gone to at least one of the cemeteries where family have been buried.

When I was younger, I went with Grandma and Grandpa. We'd drive down to Gate, Oklahoma to the cemetery. That's where Grandpa's family is buried. We'd usually run into most of Grandpa's brothers and sisters and have an informal family reunion right there. We never went to where Grandma's parents were buried because they were buried about 100 miles from us, in Lyons.

I kinda enjoy going to the cemetery. I like looking at the old headstones. I walk through areas full of old pioneer names. I count how many stones belong to children. I look to see who died in 1919-1921 and wonder if they died of the Spanish Flu. I see women buried between two men. I see men, who died young, and have a stone for their wives, but no wife was buried there because she remarried and is buried somewhere else.

I like the older stones. The variety of shapes and styles. The tree trunks, the lambs, the angels. I like the new stones that have been personalized. I really liked one in Gate that was probably 5 feet long and for an old Cowboy. He evidently wasn't married because the only name on that stone is his--and it's centered, no room for a woman's name. But, he had a ranch scene etched into his stone. Then, there was a deer hunters stone. He had deer, trees, and a guy in a tree stand etched onto his stone.

Cemeteries are interesting and fascinating. Several years ago, my MIL took me to Ravenna, Ohio to visit the cemetery where my Great Great Grandfather was buried. (He had buried two wives, one in Dayton, Ohio, a second wife was buried in Kansas. He was buried in Kansas, but his third wife had his body moved to Ohio, to be reburied with her.) Near his grave was that of a small child. If I remember correctly, that child had died around the age of five. Someone had recently left a memorial on that grave of a stuffed animal. My kids were mesmerized by that stuffed animal, which had been left for a child who had been dead for 100 years. I was moved by the thought that someone still cared enough to remember that child, and my mind turned to how fragile children's lives were 100 short years ago.

In my mind, Memorial Day is a time to visit the cemetery, to remember not only those who've given their lives for our country, but those who gave their lives giving US life.

Do yourself a favor, next year, go to the cemetery. Walk around, look at the interesting stones, look at the names of people, and the dates they lived. Note how old they were when they died. Take time to look and wonder, and give those folks a moment of your time.

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