Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as I grew up calling it, has always been a working holiday for me.
In my youth my maternal grandmother lead our family effort to decorate the gravesites of all family members within a day's drive of home. It was an outgrowth of her membership in the Daughters of the Union Veterans and an acknowledgment of the importance of family legacy.
Grandmother Ruth lovingly, and with the purpose that earned her peers the title "the greatest generation," set about the project. She crafted homemade flower vases weeks ahead of the event and the evening before collected dozens of bunches of peonies from the verdant garden my grandfather tended.
I was at an age when I couldn't have been much help. But learning how to work was a family value and Grandmother enlisted me--and taught. We would peel and spray paint gold the couple dozen "Hi-C" juice cans she had collected over the winter. Next, hangers were cut and bent to serve as anchors and guides to keep the cans of peonies upright. Finally some sand in the bottom of each can for ballast. Then into the trunk of Grandmother and Grandfather's sedan.
Our decoration day was a sunup to sundown affair. Hundreds of miles and a dozen or so floral remembrances later and we were home. I am grateful for the values I learned. Work, family, honor, heritage, tradition.
In Memory Of Our Heroes, A Civil War Statue, 1970, My mother, grandmother and youngest sister.
Next came the official holiday. In my childhood rural America, Memorial Day was a day for uniforms and parades. I wore my Cub Scout, and as I grew, my Boy Scout uniform. The veterans were in their dress best and active duty military men and women in parade regalia were the heart of the parade. I can still hear the mournful cry of Taps and the jarring rifle cracks of the twenty-one gun salute at the cemetery.
Today we bring together our memories of those who sacrificed to make America the home we know. My thanks to those who fell are solemn yet joyous. Their sacrifice binds us and sanctifies our freedom.
May you find this Memorial Day rich in memories and meaning.