I just love Memorial Day Weekend.
It signals summer and a shift in schedules and cooking outside. Can’t you just smell the lighter fluid?
Most importantly it’s a collective moment to honor those who have given a piece of themselves, or all of themselves to fight for America.
Growing up we went to Allen’s Grove Cemetery for Memorial Day services. It was a family requirement, no excuses. And it was always beautiful and stirring. Our tiny, country cemetery was no more than an acre or so. In the middle of farm land, the plot of headstones surrounded by towering pine and oak trees. Generations of my family lie there along with those from other families in Scott County Iowa.
On Memorial Day the 2 drives going around the perimeter and through the center are lined with 300 full-size American flags. If you’ve ever wondered what the local Legion Post does, they put flags out on Memorial Day. And they plan the service. We’d park along the highway with everyone else and walk in, through the quiet entrance marked with brick pillars and a wrought iron arch.
First thing we’d greet who ever else was there, neighbors, aunts and uncles. Gramma always rode with us. Then a walk over to our section. Headstones for Grampa, Dennis, the great Aunties and Uncles. My parents spot. (still empty, thank God.) The littlest cousins would ask who each stone was for and how they were related to them. It’s how they know where they come from and where they belong in the world.
Then the service would start and we’d all look for a patch of shade. I don’t remember any of service in particular. All of them included a speaker, a story of bravery and heartbreak, Taps, 21 gun salute, and the silent folding of one flag by gray-haired, white gloved vets. By then the kids were fidgety, the sun was high and gnats were swarming. Then it was picnic time at Gramma’s. It was as though the folding of that flag signaled the beginning of summer and all that it brings.
God Bless every person who fought for our freedom. And the families they left behind. You are who has made us who we are. Thank you.
P.S. – In writing this I realized I don’t have a picture of Allen’s Grove in it’s Memorial Day splendor. Neither does my Mom. The image above was the closest I could find to what it looks like. Mom’s taking the camera along on Monday.