I learned to love Memorial Day from my grandparents. And not for the reasons you might think. It’s not the weekend vacations, long boat rides or barbecues (well maybe the barbecues.) It’s one other big standout—the cemeteries. It’s not only the cemeteries—it’s the cemeteries with my husband, parents and my kids all in tow and the stories that have been born there.
Growing up, Memorial Day was a big deal for my family, especially my grandma. She loved to trim her beautiful roses (my grandpa actually did all the trimming) along with any other fresh cut flowers she could find—she often traveled to my and my parents house to grab a few—and then she would proudly place them on the graves of all her loved ones who had gone before. She would often talk about their favorite colors or favorite flowers as she instructed my grandpa, her daughters, and grandkids where to place the flowers in just the right places.
My maternal grandparents who instilled a deep love for Memorial Day and honoring those that went before me.
A big crowd of us would gather first at the cemetery where my grandmother’s family was buried and then follow it up at the old city cemetery where my grandfather’s family was buried. That cemetery is the old city-owned cemetery and it is adorned with an old World War I memorial that was always a stop on our visit. We would talk about my great-grandpa Hino who served in World War I, which is why he had a small flag placed at his headstone each year. I always felt pride in that and now my own children feel that when we talk about it every year. As we drove to the different cemeteries, we mixed and mingled in cars with family members and I loved the conversations between cemeteries.
My grandma loved talking about her brother Dee who passed when he was quite young. I could always tangibly feel her love for him as we looked at his headstone every year. I never met him, but I can picture his “coal black hair” and his style as she would lovingly talk about him every year. She passed away almost 14 years ago, but a few years before she died she made me promise to visit her grave each Memorial Day. She said to me: “I know you will always visit my grave because this is our tradition. I trust you to keep doing it when I die.” I kept the promise. But I wasn’t the only one.