Thursday, February 02, 2006

Memories of Family Memorial Days

I never bothered to go to any of my high school reunions, because there were 600 plus students in our graduating class. I figured odds were I wouldn't see anyone I remembered, anyway.

But I do have vivid childhood memories of going each year to the family Memorial Day of my Daddy's mother's side of the family. The family cemetery is beautiful and fascinating, as it's on the Historical Registry. There are quite a few stones that mark the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers, even more from the Civil War, plus lots of graves with family names I recognize. There's even a huge crypt, placed as a repository and memorial to the many slaves whose bones have been dug up over the years from an unmarked area on the back side of the cemetery.

The old, time softened monuments, with all the quaint sayings and elaborate carvings, are so much more interesting than the modern slabs. Unlike so many little backwoods family cemeteries, there is an endowment that provides perpetual care for ours, so it is quaint and well kept.

My own Daddy is about to celebrate birthday number 101! Longevity runs in his family, so there are plenty of gravestones with very long lifespans recorded on the stones, even from the 1800's, when most people didn't live very long. Of course, there are also a lot of baby graves there, too, a testimony to the high infant mortality rate of earlier centuries.

So what do I remember as a child? I remember the endless discomfort of being introduced as "Jack's little girl" to people I didn't know ... or worse, to relatives I didn't remember and should have. That always made me uncomfortable.

I remember wandering around the cemetery, looking in awe at all the old stones, constanly being reminded not to step on any of the graves - a sign of respect, not superstition.

But the tons of delicious homemade Southern country cookin', laid out on long wooden trestle tables under the pine trees across from the cemetery ... mmmmmm those are good memories. And getting to play with all the cousins I only saw once a year ... that was exciting!

My more recent memories are more poignant, as I think of the loved ones who have been buried there in my lifetime, particularly my own loving mother. As I take care of my Daddy, I know he longs to be side by side with her, and waits impatiently to see her again in Heaven.

Happy memories, sad memories, hopeful memories ... such are the threads of my life.

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2 comments:

NJMom72 said...

I love cemeteries, especially old ones. Some people think I'm strange or macabre for liking graveyards, but they'd be surprised at the beautiful artwork that can be found in the carvings of tombstones and grave monuments, as well as in the breathtaking architecture of elaborate mausoleums. I have whole photo albums of pictures that I've taken in cemeteries of beautiful headstones, monuments and mausoleums...it's one of my hobbies. I love the quaint old sayings that people used to carve into the headstones, too and will often photograph them as well. :-)

~ Susan

Dirty Butter said...

I can't say I've ever wandered around a cemetery, unless it had some of my people buried there, but I do agree with you, Susan, that the old artwork and sayings are well worth finding.

Sounds like a fascinating hobby to me, not strange at all.