Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

My family has spent a large part of every Memorial Day weekend since I was a child (and before of course) going to the cemeteries and placing flowers on the tombstones of the family members that have gone before us.

As a child those days were of play and running among the stones, admiring the flowers and playing with all the little critters that were revealing themselves as spring turned to summer. No one stopped us and told us that pure quiet was the only sound allowed, that tears were accepted and laughter not. In some ways I miss those times. Don't misunderstand me- I shed plenty of tears this past weekend with my family as we loaded up in the van and visited some country cemeteries, especially as we laid flowers for dearly loved family members that last year were with us to share laughter and silly stories. Instead at one point I was singing a special church hymn as my father placed flowers for a sister he admired so much and could barely get through the words.

What I was able to appreciate as we left that little (and I mean little) cemetery in White County, Illinois and headed to another was the paradox of the day, because just an hour later I stood at another White County, Illinois cemetery that held my  great grandparents among other relatives and instead of tears and a hymn we were laughing and shaking hands with a new connection to the family tree that held some answers I had been wondering about for years.

These times however, instead of remembering myself as a child or worrying about whether my reactions were appropriate to others- I went back in time. As I climbed the hill where my great-grandparents and three of their children are buried I could almost see each of them at the site of the other when it was their time and their service. I am a big believer in "walking the ground" of my ancestors to a degree, and no where do I feel and sense them more than when walking through a cemetery. Maybe it is because of the deep emotions that are exhibited and felt on that land.

I have so many to honor today in my family for their service to this country and patriotism runs very, very deep within us. My father served in the Navy during WWII in the Pacific aboard the USS Remey at the same time his brother was on PT Boat 309 in the Mediterranean. My brother, brother-in-law and now deceased husband all played rolls in the service during Vietnam. There are ancestral ties to the Civil War, the Revolution, and battles in between and I proudly salute them throughout Memorial Weekend, but maybe I ought to follow the example of my father. He proudly wears an American flag pin every single day of his life.

Maybe its time I ask him if he has a spare..  

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