Growing up, I remember how important "Decoration Day" was to my parents and extended family. We would travel to places and parts unknown to lay flowers upon the graves of those I'd never met, or barely remembered. Saddles were made to grace the top of monuments and smaller bouquets were fashioned that would sit in the vases that adorned the bases. While I was amazed at the variety of gravestones, the ages of so many children who had died, and the tingling soul tug that came from seeing my last name on a random relatives final resting place, I never quite understood the purpose of honoring the dead in that way.
People tend to judge you when you are that person. The one who never visits. The one who doesn't take the time to decorate the graves of loved ones. The one who doesn't feel the need to sit down and absorb the non-existent essence of the dead body below them.
In my mind, it's just a wrapper. Nothing more.
In a small cemetery in little-known Whitehall, In. lie the graves of my father, my brother and my mother, which were dug in that order. Within those graves is the dirty laundry their lives left behind. Not my father, my brother, or my mother...just their earth suits that housed their souls. Each one lies in a box within a box, tucked deep in the ground, covered with dirt and marked with a stone. But there's no treasure there.
Those I love and adore have no eternal connection to that tomb. What is lying far beneath the neatly trimmed grass is not what I loved. Those I loved are far above me, not stowed beneath me. They reside in a heavenly place of honor and glory with which I cannot begin to compete. They walk among the saints, they do not lay among the ruins and rot. They move about in a heavenly body, perfect, without pain, or disease or lack.
My Decoration Day is planting seeds of remembrance in the minds of my children. My Memorial Day is recalling incredible stories that paint a picture that is so real, so visual, that my offspring all feel as if they were there, and that they know those of whom I speak; k now them as if they had met them in the flesh. Flowers on a grave cannot relay the the love my father showed me. It can't reveal the struggles my mother endured as a child. a teenager, and an adult-or her ability to keep going in the midst of her all her trials. It doesn't show that her love of and faith in God was the only thing that got her through. Ornamentation doesn't allow them to hear the laughter of my Granddaddy, or taste the peach pie my Nanny made from the peaches that grew on her trees....the same trees I got in trouble for climbing. They can only experience the uniqueness of my Great Aunt Evie through the stories of bootlegging, shotguns, and "just when you least expect it" whoopings that she gave my daddy for a 6 month old infraction.
When I share with them the times I sat under my Godparents' table and listened to my daddy and his friends tell tall tales, cuss, drink coffee and smoke unfiltered cigarettes... I want them to hear the booming laughter. I want them to smell the smoke, the coffee, the leather of their boots and the earth and concrete that dusted their soles. I want them to see that tiny little girl scoot covertly away from the "ladies" and slide right into where the action was. To close their eyes and see the congress of storytellers and realize that remembering is more than a flower. It's planting seeds that will root and grow into wonderful stories and memories that will keep those we love alive forever.