Monday, May 27, 2019. Today we are observing Memorial Day and for many, it is the last day of a three-day weekend. There may be cookouts and there may be visits to cemeteries but most people will just appreciate having a day off from work. When I was growing up, Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day and it was always May 30th. There was a time, when I was very young, that we would take a "long ride" to decorate my aunt's grave. The Hillsboro Cemetery was about fifteen miles away from our home in Flemingsburg and it ended up being an all day trip! I can remember spotting the black iron fence, the concrete pillars on each side of the entrance and a sign hanging overhead that said Hillsboro Cemetery and that is when I knew that Decoration Day had arrived! My aunt's grave was on the right side near what was then the back of the cemetery and it was there that we would park our car and it was there that the car would stay. I can still visualize that tiny wooden building that was near the woods and there were lots of trees along the fence row. What I don't remember is ever getting hot even though it was the next to last day of May and usually very warm. It had to be those trees that offered us shade and a cool breeze if the wind was blowing! Being hungry or getting thirsty wasn't a problem either because Mamaw always prepared a picnic basket filled with tasty food and jars of tea and water to quench our thirst. What I do remember is that that the adults wanted to be there, they longed to relive happier times, and they needed to catch up with family news. As for me and my brother, we just wanted to have fun with our cousins!
I still go to this very same cemetery but I live less than three miles away so the tradition of going in the morning, taking my lunch, and staying until dark no longer exists. The flowers that I now use have changed also. Peonies, roses, and irises that were cut from the front yard and placed in Mason jars wrapped in "tin foil" have now been replaced with artificial flowers or perhaps potted flowers purchased from a greenhouse. I may see someone that I know to talk with but it will be just for a short chat before we each move on to another destination.
No, today's Memorial Day is certainly not the Decoration Day from my youth but as long as I remain reasonably sane I will remember and as long as I can physically travel, I will continue to visit cemeteries. I know that there are many who say that a grave doesn't hold the true person and I know that this is right but I also believe that God gave us memory for a reason. These graves and these names inscribed on a concrete or granite marker remind us that these people were once living and breathing humans. Some were our friends and even more were our family and I just can't let the tradition of honoring them fade away. I am hoping that my daughter and granddaughter will feel the same because, one day, sooner than I can even imagine, my body will also be buried in Hillsboro Cemetery. There is a monument already in place not far from the spot that I visited those many years ago. This marker will prove that I once lived and hopefully, there will still be people alive who will remember me after I am gone. If not, then surely there will be someone else who will choose to hold fast to the tradition of honoring the dead on Memorial Day!
Abraham Lincoln once said that "Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure." Not all of us are heroes but we all deserve to be remembered!