It is rather for us here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. ~Abraham Lincoln
Yes, the annual tradition of planting flowers on the headstones of the beloved deceased relatives was this past weekend. What a nice time to plant delicate color among the rows and rows of inexorable reminders of those who are living elsewhere. Odd enough, I do enjoy it! Sometimes it helps to lessen the pain of loss.
Of course, what’s not to love? Picking out pretty flowers? Digging in the dirt to plant spring? All while sitting in manicured green grass. It’s actually quite enjoyable, especially on the ridge where we tend to Ryan’s, pap’s and baby Piper’s graves. The Bethel Lutheran Cemetery sits on the edge of the woods and overlooks the countryside. As long as we get an early start on the day, or like this year, go late in the evening when the blazing sun is ready to retire, it makes for a relaxing family activity.
But no matter if it’s early or late in the day, cloudy or sunny, I can be found wearing a hat and smelling heavily of sunscreen, 45+ for babies. Kyle can test to that, for I coat him in a thick layer as well, to protect and preserve his flawless skin. Mom, finds a shady spot to plant herself during the activity. You might say we are sun sensitive people, minus dad.
While continuing tradition, something struck me as kind of funny. We plant annuals, yes the plants that die once winter comes. As opposed to perennials, which sprout up every year. It’s true, years ago I planted bulbs on Ryan’s and pap’s plots so the tulips and daffodils are up once spring arrives, for Easter. Besides that, the only flowers we plant are annuals. It’s kind of funny, planting something that will die in a place full of dead people. Almost reminiscent of their life, starting out as a seed from the ground, grew out of the dirt to grace the world with life and beauty, and then went back to the earth from whence it came. So maybe the annuals are more appropriate than perennials? After all, if life was intimating life in my crazy random thought, who wants the dead to come back to life and then die again, to repeat the steps every year? Aren’t those considered zombies? Although I can’t lie, I would love to hang out with Ryan again, but I know one day I will.
So annuals it is! On another side note, I am well aware our beloved deceased relatives are not truly hanging out in cemeteries. The headstones are a nice symbol to remind us of who they were and where they are now. It gives us a place to physically visit their memory. Plus let’s face it, cemeteries are very peaceful and almost refreshing.
Quick story. After Scooby, our Lab, had surgery to remove the tumor under his chin, he wasn’t allowed to run in the woods, for fear of ripping the stitches. The poor dog wanted to go on our daily walks so bad! To accommodate our pup, I modified the route to include the neighboring cemetery, which is positioned on the side of a small hill. Better exercise for me and for the dogs to run up and down. The boys run free, with their shock collars strapped to their necks of course, in case of disobedience. However, they do listen pretty good.
Anyway, as we rounded the bend to enter the cemetery, it dawned on me, ‘What if they have to expel waste?’ Yikes! I would never want the dogs to crap in front of someone’s plot, nor pee on their headstone! I watched them run around and you know what? They used the edge of the woods to do their business. Amazing! It’s like the dogs had respect for the dead. Now if dogs know better, why don’t some humans? So basically those individuals who vandalize cemeteries are less than dogs? Sounds about right!
This year Nicole was home. We packed up the vehicle and headed out to our first stop, Saint Joseph’s Cemetery, in Derry. My cousin John usually tends to his parents, but the weather was not cooperating prior to Memorial weekend. He and his family were on vacation at the Outer Banks. Lucky devil! No worries, I needed to visit Uncle Frank and Aunt Kathryn’s anyway.
Then, we headed back to Latrobe to make a big stop at Saint Vincent’s Cemetery. I really do love that cemetery. It’s always well kept and sits on the outskirts of the college. We planted mom’s parents and her grandparents. We also had the privilege of making a stop by my Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary’s to spread more colorful cheer. My cousin Paula was not able to get to her parents. Again, no worries we were in the area and I do love giving back to the family, even though it’s in the form of parking a few flowers. To give respect for my family living and deceased, in addition to planting flowers, I clean off their headstones and clean up the area to make it nice and presentable. I believe the graves are an extension from our homes, after all it’s ground that we own, similar to our places of residence.
Next we headed up on the ridge. Ryan’s takes me a bit longer because I sit and plan out his flowers and I have a little bit bigger area to fill. This year Kyle really participated. I mean, in the past he’s always helped me plant and clean up trash and such, but this year he gave his sincerest opinion and assistance. He told me which flowers he wanted on his dad’s headstone and thought out the arrangement they were to be placed. Great! He also really dug in and helped, not just going through the motions, but giving a heartfelt desire to make things nice. That’s my buddy!
I always enjoy planting flowers and tending to the headstones, but this year was even better! Kyle and I shared the longing to honor and remember our loved ones. I hope, one day this tradition takes roots in Kyle, especially after I’m long gone.
Hint: Petunias are pretty, come in a variety of colors and are hardy.