Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day

Yesterday we went to the cemetery with my mom and dad. We were joined by my brother Aaron and his oldest son William (who happened to be in town), as well as my sister Shannon's family, and my niece Ashley with her husband and baby. I love this tradition, and I think it is why cemeteries always seem like happy peaceful places (as opposed to spooky) to me. The traditions are a little different depending on whose graves we are visiting. When we go to my dad's parents, he always tells the story of when my grandpa died -- how even though he'd been in a coma for several days, he gripped my dad's hand so hard it was almost painful when my dad talked to him about how much he knew they both loved each other, and how when he did die, all the family in the room, tears in their eyes, rose and gave him a standing ovation (my grandpa had been head of the theater department at the local college). My dad also likes to clear away the grass and clean their gravestones. This time the kids reverently helped. Before we leave my dad's parent's, my dad always says a prayer then, kneeling, presses his hands along the raised letters of their names. This time, because it is a special favorite of the kids, he also told of how my grandpa and his brothers were struck by lightning. The horses they were with died and the boys were knocked unconscious and temporarily paralyzed, but managed to survive. My grandpa always clearly remembered the image of the lighting streaking away in the distance and his step-mother rushing out towards them with her skirts billowing and hair blowing in the wind as he struggled up the hill towards their home.My mom has a few more ancestors in the cemetery and she is the geneologist, so when we visit her side, she shows us pictures and tells lots of stories. My great great grandpa Thomas Wallace had a plenty rough life. His mother, who was English, was disowned when she married a Scottish sailor. She moved to Scotland where they had a number of children. One day her husband (who was known to be a drinker) left to find work and simply never returned. She used the little money they had to get back to England -- much of the journey with her little ones on foot. When she got to her old village -- hoping to plead with her family that they not let her children starve, she found that they had moved and no one knew a thing about what had become of them. By this point she and the baby were nearly dead, and did die, three days later of pneumonia -- leaving her other children completely helpless. How they grew up is another story, but eventually Thomas joined the church and came to Utah where he had 11 children -- nine of whom died. After losing so many children, Thomas was a bit of an overprotective father. My mother always tells the story of the time he wouldn't let his daughter Lizzie go on a hayride so she climbed out her window and down the huge oak next to it to go. When she returned, Thomas was sitting in her room waiting. He didn't say a word, but early the next morning she woke to the sound of her father out chopping down the Oak tree. We all know and love that family story. Here my mom is in story telling mode and showing pictures to the kids.Here are a few more pictures from the evening. Including one of Abe at the traveling Vietnam War Memorial. It gets set up at different places around the country and happened to be here yesterday. It is half the size of the original but contains all of the names. We weren't able to stay as long to look as I would have liked because Penny was throwing a tantrum and we didn't want to destroy the reverence of the place. It did make me sad though. Just to think of that many young men -- sons, maybe fathers -- just gone. Mike and I watched a documentary last night about the many graves and cemeteries of American soldiers in Europe, and Mike told me about some war in Paraguay where 2/3rds of the young men were killed. How do civilizations survive the death of that many men? It seems like it would throw things out of balance permanently.I really do love this tradition, and I had such a pleasant evening.

7 comments:

Perla said...

good job on recording this. when you are ready to have your book made let me know so i can buy a copy. i'm serious. i think it will be awesome for the future for me to have your book, too. is that okay?

Tia Juana said...

What a very nice post. I love all those stories! It brought back a lot of great memories I have of both Memorial Days spent at the gravesites of those who have gone before and of story telling times that mean so much!

Ryan, Melissa and Addy said...

Funny that you should post about this, because I was just talking about decorating graves with my husband on Memorial Day. He told me he thought it was weird and a Utah thing. We always did it growing up and I liked it, because it was a great way to find out about the people who had come before us. I heard so many cool stories about my Grandpa Davis this way, that I may have never heard otherwise.

jami said...

there is NOTHING better than family traditions. i loved reading about your memorial day (and your dad is like mine - telling stories and cleaning the gravesites).

Nancy said...

Melissa, I always assumed everyone did this too. . . until Imoved to WA and discovered no one did. Must be a UT thing afterall!

Mugsy said...

Man Nanc you did such a great job describing and making me feel as though i was right there with you. The story of Dad, ofcourse, broke my heart as it always does. And you captured his emotion in that photo aswell.

Ashley said...

I am always so HAPPY when I discover I'm a part of someone's post. Thanks for including me in yours.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...