Last week, my uncle Pat mentioned the declining respect for Memorial Day. He said that many years ago, whole families gathered in the cemeteries to clean graves and to show respect for their deceased elders. Nowadays, hardly anyone remembers.
His words pricked my heart and made me realize that in the fifteen years since my father passed away, I have never taken my children to his grave on Memorial Day. In fact, I'm not even sure all my kids have even seen the grave. In years past, I tended to avoid my father's grave, like the way I avoided the feelings of anger, abandonment, and bereavement. But my uncle made me see beyond my personal feelings. My children deserve to know their forebears, if even through the stories I tell.
We drove to Wellpinit on Memorial Day, and visited my father's final resting place. My children saw the stone and heard the stories. They also saw my tears, and hopefully felt some small portion of my love.
We visited many other graves, like a walking lesson in family history: my auntie Marlene, my yaya Bessie, my yaya Minnie, and my great grandfather, Wilson Moses. Each grave holds a different story.
The cemetery visit wasn't all death and gloom. Actually, it was a celebration of life and deep family bonds. As my children learned their genealogy, many of their living relatives also arrived to pay respect. We saw some family members who have been away for many years. It was like a family reunion for both the living and the dead. This thing I dreaded became a beautiful experience.