Yesterday – starting earlier than usual this year, Bill and I made our Memorial Day visit to some family graves at three local cemeteries – St. Patrick and the Edson cemeteries in Lowell and St. Mary Cemetery in North Tewksbury. Most of the visitor-cars in St. Patrick’s had New Hampshire plates. These cars shared space with walkers and a small touring group. The city-owned Edson looked spruced-up and ready as two street sweepers cleaned the avenues. A final trim was made to individual graves at St. Mary’s where near-by a casket with a small clutch of mourners was readied for its final interment.
These serene resting places for the dead hold our family memories, our history – our connections with the past. This ritual of decorating the graves of loved ones has its roots back in the Civil War as families and the government in an act of remembrance placed a flower(s) and later flags on soldiers’ graves. Its custom has spread to all graves and now usually includes pots of flowers, plantings and wreaths as well as flags. In recent times, remembrances such as statues of angels, crosses, fuzzy animals and other memorabilia of “personality” share the gravesites. Not limited to Memorial Day remembrances – we see holiday-related gifts, gagets, gee-gaws like wind chimes and coins left on Halloween, Christmas, Easter and of course Mother’s Day.
Whatever your sign or symbol of memory and respect, think about a simple visit, a simple prayer or a thought for loved ones gone but not forgotten on this Memorial Day weekend. Better yet, as our Victorian brethern – consider stopping by more often.