In our family, Memorial Day is about honoring the dead by touring the pioneer cemeteries where at least five generations of ancestors, who traveled by covered wagon to Oregon, are resting in Peace.
We listen to stories and remember to stick the flags into the grassy dirt, softened by months of rain, at the head of the tombstones of the soldiers. Because they deserved to be remembered, along with the great great grandparents, and aunts and uncles and second cousins once or twice removed.
Heck, we’ll even put a rhododendron or a rose on the graves of the far-removed married-ins, like the Applegates, or Putnams, or strangers that we’ve adopted over the years, especially if they’re babies.
My mom and my aunts have been coming to these cemeteries since they were little kids, and my sisters and cousins and I have been coming since we were little too. We bring our kids now, to make sure they’ll bring their kids, so we’ll get flowers, eventually. Hopefully.
It’s good to remember our roots, and our loved ones who are over in Afghanistan, right this very moment.
“I just want them to come home,” says my cousin Sally, who’s husband and son are over there now. “I try not to think about them, but I can’t help it.”
She grew up on military bases, with her Dad who fought in Korea, and her mom who did her duty as an officer’s wife. And Sally served in the National Guard herself, where she met her husband.
But it doesn’t make it any easier.
So we tell the funny stories and have a picnic and remember as much as we can, and spruce up the graves, pull a few weeds, take some pictures, and hope our children understand the cycle of life, and will remember which flowers we like, when it’s our turn to be done.
God bless us all, every single one.