Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

Many of us observe Memorial Day in different ways. For some it is just an extra day off of work, another one of those beloved "holidays" when you don't have to work.  For many it is a day to remember their loved ones who passed before them.  Originally, this holiday was set aside to celebrate and remember the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces.

Many referred to this day as Decoration Day because of the long tradition of placing flowers at the loved ones graves. The graves of the fallen soldiers are marked with the American flag to remind us of the price paid to preserve our freedom.  

The red poppy has become noted as a source of pride to wear and a way to raise funds for the benefit of service people in need.  This tradition was influenced largely by the poem written by Moina Michael.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

The red poppy can still be seen today being worn by many people, thanks in part, to the VFW as they have set up a program for disabled veterans to make and sell them.

Many family traditions have been set in stone for years with the children trying to maintain the customs set by their parents and grandparents.  My mother lost her mother to cancer when she was just five years old.  The family of five children ranging in age from one to nine was taken to care for by the grandmother.  Now that must have been one strong woman!

Her grandmother taught them many loving things, but one tradition my mother and her sisters remain ever vigil about is the Memorial Day tradition.  The families all looked forward to this holiday.  All the aunts and uncles with their many children would return to the home town to commemorate their loved ones. 
The children would pick wildflowers and make bouquets for the graves.  They all had new clothes, handmade by Grandma, and new shoes.  Grandma would cook for several days getting food ready for the holiday.  Every family member’s grave would receive flowers and various other items made by the children.  Family members who served in the armed forces received a small flag to designate their past service.

This turned out to be a memorable time for the families and a way to have a family reunion of both living and deceased.  One aunt would line the children up and say, “Let me see how big you have gotten.”  Little things like this become entrenched in your memory and help us to retain some of the life that was.

My aunt still lives in the home town and has officially taken on the role of ensuring that each and every family member’s graves are decorated with flowers.  The long tradition of the family get together is no longer carried on as families grow and move away, but the love instilled by the grandma is still strong in the sisters.

My father passed away this past summer and my mother was terribly concerned that he have flowers on his grave for this holiday.  I made sure I went to the cemetery armed with flowers, scissors, water, and a camera.  He was a 32° Mason and the Masonic Lodge had already placed a flag on his grave by the time I arrived.

The entire place with alive with the sweeping array of color across the green expanse of grass.  Large American flags lined the drive way into the gardens and little canopies were set up at designated intervals around the drive.LLLLLLLl  They had chairs, umbrellas, water, coffee, popcorn (yes, a very cool popcorn machine), and I even saw an ice cream truck.  This place was ready to celebrate.  

A HUGE American flag was standing on a side part of the garden with white chairs all lined up for the presentation set for Monday.  Monday started with a flyover of F-16s from the Colorado Air National Guard and just the sound alone made your heart swell with pride.  
The day was a glorious event meant to honor our soldiers and their families and I do believe they did an excellent job accomplishing this feat.   This was a great way to say Thank You for our Freedom.

No comments:

Post a Comment