-Isms: Views on life in rural America
May 28, 2020
A cottony billow of dandelion seeds caught my attention Saturday, while I placed flowers along the row of family members’ graves in the Oakdale cemetery.
The flower seemed out of place among the carpet of velvety green grass, its wispy, circular head swaying in rhythm with the gentle breeze. By the time I’d placed bouquets near each headstone, most of the seeds had scattered.
The moment reminded me of family and Memorial Days past, times we would gather at our grandparents’ farm and celebrate the beginning of summer. Like the dandelion, our family is scattered now: Nebraska, Washington, Minnesota, South Dakota, New Hampshire.
Even though we’ve grown in different directions, our roots remain planted firmly as one. It is evident, especially as I move along the row of gravestones, paying homage to my ancestors, including a former Antelope County judge, homesteaders who tended the land and farm wives who worked as hard as their husbands to build a future on Nebraska’s virgin prairie.
Most Memorial Days, we youngsters would pile into the back of Grandpa’s blue International pickup, making the three and one-half mile journey to the cemetery in time for the annual program. It seemed like hundreds of people attended, paying respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, a gathering place where families came together to honor loved ones.
When it concluded, we’d tag along with our grandparents, deliver flowers to graves, hear stories about each recipient.
The cemetery provided a noisy sense of peace and calm among the chaos of the times, a reflection on life and living and love.
Then, it seemed like the entire extended family would make their way to our grandparents’ farm for a picnic, complete with fried chicken, potato salad and all the fixings.
This routine was repeated for years, until we scattered or family members reunited with earth, “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:19)
I wonder and worry, though, about the tradition of this sacred day. Are baby boomers and gen X-ers the last of a dying breed who understand and celebrate the holiday’s significance?
My kids used to tag along when I would take flowers to the cemetery. I can’t remember the last time they went on their own though. I’ve made it a priority to take the grandsons to visit their grandmother’s resting place and say prayers for her, as well as ask her to watch over us all.
Maybe when they’re older, they’ll understand and remember the significance of the day.
Maybe my sentimentality about it is because every day, I am reminded that no matter how long a day might seem, life is short, so make the most of it.
Perhaps I miss my family more than I realize and hope we have an opportunity to spend time together soon.
I know this for sure: This year, I missed the beautiful tributes to area servicemen and servicewomen by our local American Legions, the camaraderie of friends and family, the roots that bind us all as one.