Decoration Day

Back in the day, Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day. When I was growing up, we decorated the graves of relatives in the cemetery with flowers from our garden. Grandpa had a lot of peonies. Then, there were tulips. Both of them blossomed close to Decoration Day.

We often planted flowers on the graves as well. I always helped my grandfather with the planting. Usually, I took the sprinkling can and went for water. When we removed flowers, I took the dead ones to the box that was left for that. He planted for his sister. She had charge of their parents’ graves since there was a spot for her when she died. We also planted on the lady who took care of Marnie, husband’s grave. I was never sure exactly how she was related to us, but she was always there. She did the cooking and she also helped take care of my great-grandfather when he was around.

We also planted on my grandmother’s parent’s grave. These people were all in the same cemetery. How I loved the old cemetery in Fredonia where they were buried. I learned about my ancestors from my grandfather. He also took care of some older graves that were in another spot.

Do young people tend the graves today? I fear it is something that is in the past. With all of the moving that people do, it is hard to tend graves that are out of town.

I have the same issue. All of my family grave stones are at ground level. While I understand that makes mowing easier, it is hard to keep the grass from around the stones. Whenever I go over there, I clean off all of the family stones. It is getting harder and harder to find them. My grandparents used to be buried right near a tree. That tree has been removed so it is definitely hard to find.

The cemetery rules which we received upon burial there, state that graves may be decorated for Memorial Day, but that any plants must be removed in two weeks. I do not bother to put anything on that grave because I cannot go over there to remove them.

I have placed flowers in memory of my mother at our church. She attended that church once she moved over here.

This year I have two graves in the Pine Grove Cemetery to decorate. I told someone a long time ago that the cemetery rules should be given when the plot is purchased or at least when the burial is done. I was told the rules were posted on the building. That is not good enough. I carry my own water so I do not go near the building. I can only assume that others do that as well since some of the graves are quite far from the building. I hear the cemetery rules have been changed. The tombstone companies and funeral homes need to know this as well.

Dick is buried in the section by the old grind stone while Don is buried near the highway beside his first wife. Their grave is near my in-laws. Dick’s sister always tended that grave planting things that would not disappear.

It is our custom to go to the Memorial Day service at the cemetery. We started going when the children were part of the Eisenhower band years ago and have continued going ever since.

That is something that my family always did, but we attended services in Fredonia. The thing that made the biggest impression on me when I was young was the 21-gun salute. It seemed like such a solemn ritual.

I recall the solemn ceremony that the veterans performed at Don’s funeral. I did fine until they handed me the folded flag. That was my undoing – I cried.

Thankfully, the date has been added to Don’s tomb stone. It took a while since I was told the stencils for this come from China and they were behind on the shipping.

When I was teaching, I always spent time telling my students about Memorial Day. How are they going to learn if no one tells them? Many of them told me their grandparents did not live near them. They did not know where their graves were.

Parents, take your children to the cemetery. There is a lot of history to learn there. It is a quiet place. Show the children where their ancestors are buried. Be sure to look at the dates. Family history is an important piece of their heritage.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.


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