Every year since we have returned to Maine we hold fast to the same Memorial Day traditions.
Back in the early years
When I was young, growing up in Maine, I would accompany my mother to the most beautiful serene cemetery – Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco, Maine. We would plant flowers at the grave of her parents and make return visits from time to time to water and deadhead the blooms.
Parades were always part of the Memorial Day tradition too- it went right by our house. The marching bands, the scout troops, the military veterans – you know, the typical collection of marchers. This parade wound up at Laurel Hill having speeches and remembrances at the end.
For the past several years
Now my husband and I travel to the same cemetery to plant flowers on that same spot- the spot of my grandparents and now, my parents as well. Visiting my grandparents grave and planting seems very natural . Because of those visits Laurel Hill is filled with memories of calm. Remembering times with my mother planting there and relishing the peace and quiet of that space. They are in a very bright and sunny part of the cemetery along an outer edge deep inside the vast expanse of the place. Even the tall faucets are still there where you can fill your watering can to water the flowers. Those same faucets! They towered above my head when I was small- now just about chin level.
Visiting my own parents gravesite still seems a bit surreal even though they have been gone since 1990 and 1999 respectively. They died when my own children were small and I was in the midst of travels to dance classes, baseball, softball, playdates, bedtime stories, homework, and the rest of what young parenting involves.
Little time to grieve- there were things to be done at home and you had to keep moving forward. Maybe that was a blessing- to have that time of business at hand.
Now my daughter and her children make a trip to Laurel Hill every spring when the daffodils are in bloom by the Saco river- they visit the gravesite of my parents, her grandparents. Someday perhaps they will take over the Memorial Day tradition in our family.
We visited my brother and niece yesterday after the visit to Laurel Hill – he just lost his wife very suddenly and they are still reeling from that loss. That The visit, the hugs, the conversation, it was part of the healing process in our family. Perhaps another Memorial Day tradition was born.
WWII – my father and uncles
My father was one of seven boys in his family. One born in Scotland, where his parents emigrated from, and the rest of the children born in MA. All seven served in the military during WWII – all returned home. There was an article about them in the local newspaper where they lived. There is a photo of it somewhere in this house but where? heaven knows… The last survivor- in fact the only one who had been wounded- just died recently. Now all are gone. My father never talked about the war other than to say where he was – Italy. I don’t know where my uncles were while they served. Every branch was covered- Army, Navy, etc- they were everywhere helping to make sure that our own country remained free. Thank you- they joined on their own because, to them, it was the right and only thing to do.
What are your Memorial Day traditions? do you stop to remember those who are no longer physically present in your life? Maybe take a moment to remember them – it is these memories that keep them alive in your heart.