For many people, Memorial Day is a day for gathering with family and friends over barbecue, in the great outdoors (when the weather is great) and pleasant conversation. Throughout the day, some might be blessed with stories shared throughout the generations. Some might even take a moment out of the day to pay respects for loved ones that have passed on by decorating their gravesites with flowers and such. I consider myself blessed that I can do all three with my family.
Memorial Day is observed for remembering the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the USA’s armed forces. While many of my relatives have served in the armed forces, I don’t know of any that have died while serving. My grandfather, Lawrence Isaac Richardson, Sr., fought in World War II. He passed away in 2011 and is buried at Leavenworth National Cemetery in Leavenworth, KS. His grave site is one of dozens (veterans and civilians) that my family and I gather to decorate every year.
I have heard a few remarks from people, talking about those who choose to spend their time “celebrating the dead”. Some say, “It just seems morbid” or “I’d rather give my flowers to people while they’re living“. I understand what they mean to a certain point, but what some don’t understand is what these families get from decorating the graves of their loved ones. Well, I suppose I can only speak for myself. I don’t know when our family started this tradition, but I’ve participated with decorating these grave sites since I was a little girl. While placing flowers near those headstones, my relatives share many stories of the deceased – what their personalities were like, their careers, accomplishments, failures, funny and not-so-funny memories. One of the most memorable stories to me is the one about my great-great-great-great grandmother, Rosie Williams, who is buried in Lincoln Cemetery in Kansas City, MO. She was born into slavery in 1830 and died at 104 years of age. My great-aunts told us that they remembered when they were young, how Rosie had flashbacks of being beaten and raped by her master. Another grave we decorate every year is my sister, who came into this world prematurely and stillborn in 1977. I always wonder how she would have looked, how her personality would have been like had she lived. There are much more family stories I could tell and I don’t take for granted what I’ve learned with each one and the time I spend with our family storytellers. I love learning about my family history and relaying those stories to my nieces and nephews.
After visiting a number of cemeteries, we spend the rest of Memorial Day eating good barbecue, in the great outdoors (again, if the weather is great) and having pleasant conversations with other family and friends.
However you honor Memorial Day, I pray that you have a safe one!