We visited the graves of our family early this year to avoid the diminishing crowds that remember their family and military dead each May. My memories as a child were of roving family reunions that migrated from cemetery to cemetery mixing and matching members based on the names on tombstones.
The fragrance of the flowers for graves were etched into my memory both in their semi-diluted potency in the cemeteries themselves and in their full intensity in our car. My permanent position was in the center of the back seat so I could keep all of the cans and containers standing upright through the bumps and turns associated with city and country cemeteries.
Over the past few decades I’ve noted that the visits to cemeteries has decreased significantly. The gray haired crowd still visit in force but the vitality of youth is largely missing unless they are visiting the graves of a parent who died young or of a favorite grandparent. It seems as though the reason for the memorial holiday has lost its focus and has mutated to a degree into a day to barbeque and water ski’s.
I was caught dancing the cemetery soft shoe shuffle this year. For most of my life, I’ve secretly performed a few steps for the laughter of my deceased ancestors during my Memorial Day visits to their graves. It has always been a bit tricky to perform the steps unobserved by my wife and children let alone any other visitors to the cemeteries. This year I failed to be totally observant of where others around me were looking and my secret was exposed.
Not all white haired ladies have eagle eyes and the hearing range of the best hound but one delightful woman does. Using the Pay-It-Forward activity of taking photos of tombstones to add to Find-a-Grave as the method of misdirection I neglected to account for the slope of the hill. The quick step of my feet that was triggered by the turn of my wife’s eyes, caused me to slip and slide a bit on the grassy slope. Thinking I’d recovered before she saw the movement I immediately froze when a voice behind me said, “Were you dancing?”
“Oh, Bother!” “Caught!” My cemetery shuffle was exposed to the ratings of another. I didn’t comment. It wasn’t necessary. The twinkle in her eyes and smile on her face negated any comment I could make to dissuade her about the meaning of what she had so obviously observed. Fortunately, her voice only carried to my ears.
Walking over to talk, our conversation turned to the whirly gigs that seem to be popular decorations on cemeteries now. Someone had been stealing them from the graves of her grandchildren and she wondered how to protect them in the future.
The answer in my mind was useless because I wouldn’t have put them on the graves in the first place, thus the issue of theft wouldn’t have been in focus at all. In this case however, I was gratefully for a topic of diversion to hide my embarrassment. I never said I was a good dancer only that my steps were for the enjoyment of my deceased family. The absurdity of me dancing has to result in chuckles if not outright guffaws on their part. I’ll be more observant of the eyes that may be watching in future years. I don’t care if I’m caught on a security camera. The folks that have to watch them are in a sort of a tomb already. They need a chuckle as well.
How about you? How was your visit the graves of your family this year to memorialize their lives in your mind if in no other way? Don’t forget them as you spend the currency of the hours assigned to the holiday that was created to honor their lives.