Day 65-SIP-Decoration Day

For the past few weeks I ‘ve had a compelling desire to visit my wive’s graves. I said it before and I will say it again today, I don’t see any point in visiting graves, but I did today. At least I can say I did something useful at Barb’s grave. I cleaned her gravestone from the grass that is trying to cover it. While I was there I cleaned my stone as well. At the time, I thought there would never be a reason not to be buried next to her, so I bought my gravestone to match hers. I also thought of it as saving the responsibility from my kids. It took me forty five minutes to complete the job. I stuck an American flag between the stones in honor of Memorial Day, said a final prayer and went to the next grave.

The next graves were that of John T, and Minnie Riley, the parents of my second wife Peggy. They are but a stones throw from Barbara in Holy Sepulcher cemetery while Peggy is nearly thirty miles further southwest. When Peg and I discussed our lives together after we decided to marry, we made special requests to be buried with our first spouses. Looking at things pragmatically, we both knew we would never be married to each other as long as we were to our first spouses, therefore, our forever-life on earth belonged to our first.

I did my thing, first saying a prayer for Peg and then speaking to her directly. When finished I encircled her stone to the other side and did the same for her first husband. I told him to look for me at the gate soon.

Memorial Day always evokes memories from my childhood. It was only a few years after WWII had ended and before Korea started. The country was mourning its losses of husbands, sons, lovers, friends killed in the war. My parents referred to the day as decoration day. It was the time when families went to cemeteries to spend time with their loved ones and to decorate their graves with flowers, wreaths, bouquets. My mother insisted we all go. I don’t think Dad could resist, although I never got the idea that he would. Mom always made him stop at the nursery across the road from the entrance to St. Mary’s Cemetery. She selected a floral pattern for my brother Joe’s grave and then bought the plants to make it.

At Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, where Peggy is buried with her veteran husband, American flags adorn the drive on both sides of the drive leading in. It is very picturesque indeed. I was mildly surprised at the number of people that were there. Most days when I visit her grave I am among only handful of people there. A funeral waited for escort to the burial chapel, and many vets on motorcycles sat on their bikes chatting. All throughout the cemetery between the rows of endless white grave stones were wives, daughters, and grandchildren placing floral bouquets and flags to their loved ones.

Getting into the cemetery on Memorial Day was not easy. Al the cemetery roads were parked with cars and the traffic within was bumper to bumper. Veterans in uniform carrying rifles marched throughout from grave to grave of their comrades lost in war. At the gravesite they would have a ceremony with the color-guard and the rifles giving a salute with volleys of smoky, noisy shots aimed into the sky. Saint Mary’s is a Catholic cemetery so there is a mass for the souls of the departed at 10:00 a.m. in the outdoor grotto. It was always well attended and crowded with standing room only. Not a safe COVID-19 assembly.

Normally, we left home about nine o’clock and we didn’t’t return until after three o’clock, all of us exhausted. Mom and Dad felt better that they had a chance to decorate their firstborn’s grave. Dad had a chance to visit a sister, and all of her kids, and they both visited graves of Hungarian friends from the neighborhood. It was a family oriented day, and I learned to despise it.

My wife Barbare was brought up to revere her dead relatives, She was just as paranoid about visiting graves as my mother. Maybe that is why they got along so well. Barb went to the cemetery often to clean graves and visit with her grandparents, aunts and uncles. She knew I disliked the process, so normally she did graves during the week with the kids. She had her own car, so transportation was never an issue. On the other hand, Peggy’s family was the opposite. Once a person was buried that was the end of the road for visitation except for major events. She and I only visited her husband’s grave a few times, and I only took her to see Barb’s gave once or twice. Each time we wound up looking her parent’s graves which she hadn’t visited for years.

I wonder what will happen to my grave once I am gone. Who will revere my grave enough to visit, and to clean, and to place flowers upon the stone?

On the drive home, I thought it is time for me to visit my parent’s, brother, grandfather, aunts, and graves and clean them up. The last time I did that it was because my young grandson Joey asked me to help him with his genealogy by visiting graves. He was about seven when that happened he is twenty-two now, and working. I’ll ask him if he is interested, if not, I’ll ask my brother if he can break out of his long-term-care house to go with me.