We live in a little town that was swallowed by the city, but we still FEEL like a little town. Our tiny local newspaper office used to sell T-shirts that said, “I wasn’t born in Waynedale, but I couldn’t wait to get here.” Everything’s convenient. The store’s five minutes from our house. The drugstore’s four minutes away. The wine store’s even less. All of the important points covered. There’s a Pizza Hut, a diner, a Wings Etc. and a few other small restaurants. Friends laugh at me when I balk at driving half an hour to get something. And every year, for Memorial Day, a parade goes right down the street in front of our house. There’s no sleeping in. The sirens start at nine a.m. People line the street with their lawn chairs, and the nice family across the street invites us over for sausage gravy and biscuits when the parade’s over. What more could a human being want?
When I was a kid, my parents packed us in the car every Memorial Day, and we went to put flowers on EVERY grave of ANYONE in the family in a reasonable distance. We drove to Bluffton, out north, southwest–anywhere a family member was buried. I hated it. It was a tour of one gravestone after another of people I didn’t remember. Now, the “family” in town is pretty much my sister and me. Mary still takes Memorial Day very seriously. This year, she bought pots of flowers to put on our parents’ graves, another for Aunt Phyllis, and another for our sister Patty. They’re all in a long row at the same cemetery. For the first time, she’s not putting decorations on our grandparents’ graves or anyone else’s. Only those four.
Me? I don’t decorate graves. When I die, I’ve moved on. I don’t care if anyone puts flowers on my grave. I hope they remember me and think about the things I did that made their lives better. And then, I hope they pass it on. I’m going to be in Heaven (because I DO believe in heaven, not hell), and hopefully, having flowers on my grave won’t make any difference to me. I’ll be happy, and I’ll hope that my loved ones are happy, too.
I grew up with a lot of “dying” in my life, and I think that made a difference. My dad had multiple myeloma and took ten years of slowly declining to pass away in his late 50’s. A year later, HH’s dad died from emphysema, then my mom got Alzheimer’s, but she lasted ten more years–sort of. Death or dying has been with me a long time, so being kind to people while they are alive matters a lot more to me than putting flowers on their graves when their dead.
I wrote a book, EMPTY ALTARS, about gods who are old and out of fashion, so no one offers them anything anymore. And you know, what difference does it make? Some of the gods–like Tyr, Freya, and Diana–still stuck it out and helped mortals, because that’s what gave them purpose. And some of the gods retired and walked away. I like Memorial Day. Don’t get the wrong idea. I believe in remembering what people made a difference in our lives. And the people who made sacrifices for our freedom. They deserve to be honored. But I’m not a sentimental person, so no flowers on graves for me. And maybe I’m wrong about that. I’ve been wrong before. How do you celebrate Memorial Day?