It’s a funny thing how your views change about certain customs as you grow older or mature,. I mean, I used to think that it’s not Christmas unless you have a Christmas tree. And you had to have ham on Easter. And Memorial Day was the most boring of so called holidays.
This year, something—or someone—was calling me to go down to French Lick, Indiana to put flowers on my mother’s grave. I always thought that was an odd thing to do. Who cared if there were flowers on the headstones of people who were not there? It’s just like when my brother died at age 29, and people I didn’t know streamed into the funeral home to express their condolences. Before that, I had thought it was goolish. that night, I was touched.
So after a six-hour drive, with live purple dianthus in the trunk, along with a shovel, jugs of water, and gardening gloves, my generous friend Dan and I trudged through the weeds to a certain spot in this ancient cemetery to decorate the graves of my family. We placed one flower on either side of each of six headstones of my family, my grandmother, my mother, my dad, my aunt and her husband, and my beloved cousin. I had planned to stroll around and read the names of the others buried there, some of whom I knew as a child, but by then, the heat and the bugs were really getting to us. Then I asked Dan to do something else I used to think was weird. I asked him to take a picture of each stone with its little flank of Dianthus, so I could send them to my kids. They both are mature enough to appreciate my effort, because they both remember that beautiful old cemetery from funerals they had attended as little children and two years ago for the funeral of their grandma. It’s way out in the country on the top of a hill, where all you can hear is an occasional chirp of a bird. I think it’s the most peaceful place in the world.
We also brought a flag to place by my dad’s headstone. the American Legion volunteers had already planted one there, but we put ours there anyway. After all, he had served in the Army twice.
I had wanted to make this pilgrimage last August, on the first anniversary of my mother’s death, but I didn’t know of anyone I could ask to make such a sacrifice. It’s a 12-hour drive round trip and an overnight stay, so it’s not easy. One friend said in disbelief, ”You drove all that way just to plant flowers? You didn’t walk around the town or anything else? that’s a lot of work just to decorate your family’s graves.”” But now, I am blessed to have a new friend Dan who gave me the gift of his time for me to do what I felt needed to be done. It’s an honorable thing to do, dan, when you honor the deceased, even when it’s not your own family. Thank you for understanding a call that I can’t even understand myself.