Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day / Decoration Day

Monday is Memorial Day... amazingly. Christmas seems like yesterday... all days seem possible, any holiday could be tomorrow, it seems. I have lost synch with the calendar. Mom and I plan to get some flowers and visit the cemeteries.. a long-standing tradition in our family and with many of yours. When I was little, our list was long: great-grandparents, cousins, friends... in-laws, neighbors. My grandmother used to carry out two or three tubs of cut peonies bundled together with wet papertowels and aluminum foil... We spent the day in several cemeteries, stopping for a bit of lunch some years, some years not..... but tomorrow I think we will stick to the very few who have been our immediate family. Although we don't bring flowers to the many, we will still remember their varied gifts to our heart. There is my great grandmother's grave, Savannah's. Her small tombstone nestles beside a much larger one of her husband and his SECOND wife... speaking much of that particular relationship. She died in childbirth when my grandfather was only 12 and his little sister 5. Her buggy and horse had been frightened while she drove to town, and the subsequent buggy wreck threw her into premature labor and ultimate death. Evidently Savannah whispered something to my 5- year old aunt as the mother left this world that was very special... for when my aunt at 91 told me this story, her eyes closed and a beautiful smile etched that happy, secret moment across her face. I remember leaning forward to hear the secret message from that long-ago mommy to daughter, but my aunt didn't dish... the secret went to her grave that same year...
There's the little diamond-shaped stone belonging to Frank Leslie... My grandfather used to walk me to that grave and obtain a vow that I would never forget to decorate that grave. "I killed this man," my grandfather solemnly told me. I remember the first time he shared this earth-shattering information. (My grandfather was the most kind-hearted, non-killer person I have ever known. I silently wondered what would happen next. Would the earth suddenly open and swallow me up? I hoped so.) But my grandfather Emanuel continued the story, "When my cousins and I had measles, Frank Leslie was an old man. He got very scared and informed us he hadn't ever had them and begged us to go away. Instead, since we loved him and he had always been such a teaser, we crawled all over him and gave him hugs and kisses on his old whiskers." Evidently Frank Leslie contracted measles after that, and Frank up and died, leaving a bunch of Missouri cousins to bear the remorse to their very elderly years.... And then there is Jennie Marie, victim of a violent mass murder in Kansas. She and her family were born and spent their early life in our local tiny town in the early 1900's... Her brother, also her killer, did time along with the In Cold Blood killers and is often pictured in books and interviews and the movie Capote. Her grandmother, who just lived down the country road from me, quite tearfully gave me some of Jennie's things when I graduated---- a handkerchief, a small jewelry chest... and again I honored Jennie's grave each year with flowers thinking what a crime it had been to deprive her of a grandmother who would grieve with raw tears so many years later... I, at that age, had never suffered a loss that never heals, so I couldn't imagine such a wound. Unfortunately, I get it now.
I won't be walking the cemetery this year because of health issues with Mom and time issues... and other things, but I will definitely take some time to recall the graves and the lives of those I love. Cemeteries are not horrific, scary things to most of us, but rather peaceful sobering reminders that so many lives are waiting on the other side... I leave these words to help me smile as I remember my favorite epitaphs I have ever seen with my own eyes:

In a cemetery near by, Friendship: "As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. Prepare for death and follow me." (?? kinda gruesome, don't you think?).. And in Mt. Salem on the huge, fancy Stokes stones honoring a young man killed in a powder keg underground mine explosion: "Many dreams lie buried here.".... and one of my favorites from Poland Cemetery in Indiana, viewed when I was many years younger: a small stone similar to my Savannah grandmother's: "-------- (woman's name)------- Wife of John _______"and right next to it, a large, lovely, flowery stone with "--------another woman's name--------------" and the words, "Beloved Concubine of John _______" oh, hahah... it all boils down to that sometimes... hahaha... It made me laugh so irreverently what seems like centuries ago, much to the indignant huff of my mom and grandmother who didn't see the humor... They wouldn't... married and happy... But to the twice divorced young woman who stood there that spring day and read that tribute, it. was. simply. hysterical... and so may I be this early a.m.
Time for bed? It's 4:12 a.m. My mom is just getting up for the day... oh, oh... Lest we forget, Happy Memorial Day Weekend.


Debby said...

Oh my, how I love all your pretty cards. Happy Memorial Day weekend.

Becky K. said...

Beautiful Post.

I love visiting old cemeteries. The lives represented and the stories told on the tombstones are so interesting. We don't want our loved ones who have passed on to be forgotten and so, I am sure, others would appreciate our respectful interest in theirs.

Hope things are ok where you are.
Praying for you.

Allidink said...

Wow. What a deep post. You've shared so much! It's been so nice to read. How special that you visit cemeteries and honor those people. I like visiting old cemeteries too. Have a nice weekend.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Just when I think I've heard all your really good stories, I read another one on here. You MUST write a book. Blogging is nice, but you have more in you. Don't deny us.