Memorial Day in Kentucky, as I am sure it is in much of the South, is a time for family and making memories. But many of us, though not as many as there used to be, take time to honor those who have left us far too soon. For me it was a tradition every year to go with mom to the family graves and put out flowers. It was bittersweet the first year we went to her sister’s grave, the one younger then mom who left a lasting legacy with anyone she came in contact with. Her brother’s grave was much the same. Every year he got a live plant, when we left the cemetery we drove around the corner to his oldest son’s home. Then mom would tell him the plant was there and tell him to go get it after Monday and keep it for himself. At Concord we would always have to go looking for trees and headstones to locate her great grandparents. It was there I learned that my great grandad was not buried with his wives but by himself in one corner of the cemetery. His wives who both passed before him were buried in another section entirely. One between her own parents. These are the stories that come down through a family history. The ones that are never talked about in the family cookouts, and if they are they are simply passed over as a snippet and never brought back up again.
When my mom was a child grave decorating was a family affair. A full day was made of it, picnic baskets and all the fixin’s. Blankets were spread and they would spend the day clearing the gravesites of weeds and overgrowth. Cleaning the headstones and planting flowers. Someone would bring musical instruments and a singing would begin, old church hymns, bluegrass. The kids played in the grass and sat and listened to stories of their family history. That doesn’t happen much anymore. The people I would see when we would go on our excursions were mostly my mom’s age, there might have been a few that were a wee bit older then I, usually kids of a parent recently lost. Younger kids come but only because they are with their parents. It is a tradition that is fading into the distance. Just like family traditions and histories.
This year was different for me. This year I went with my husband, my mom one of the graves to be decorated. The thought alone made me physically ill. But I had to do it. Although I didn’t go to Concord because I am not sure who is who for sure, the sites so hard to tell apart and none of them had markers. I spent a lot of time crying, and we did it first, because the longer I put it off the sicker I got in the pit of my stomach. I had found a perfect saddle for the grave, and purchased a rose bush to put near it. Funny mom had flower gardens here at her house. One filled with rose bushes that never seemed to bloom very much. That is until this year, this year they have gone crazy as if mom is saying “Ha” . I am going to have to transplant them to other areas of the yard, when her trailer is sold they will pull it off over where those flowerbeds are. I am even putting that off.
This year of firsts has been hard. I am hoping as the year closes and we get through this year it will be easier next year. Not so raw. Not so where has the time gone, when did nearly half a year pass because it doesn’t seem like she has been gone that long, then there are days that seem like she has been gone far longer then I thought I would ever survive without her.