Cemeteries hold a certain fascination for me. On my travels around the state of Wisconsin and in other parts of the country, too, I often see small cemeteries on private lands. Simple family cemeteries filled with crumbling spires and solid squatty granite blocks. Some are decorated with plastic flowers in every hue and variety, some with teddy bears and pin-wheels, some plain – but not forgotten, I hope.
My favorite grave markers are the ones that incorporate a bench. Not that I will have a bench near my eventual resting place, but I do like the idea of having a place for others to rest a bit, think quiet thoughts, re-consider and make new plans, go on with living. While still taking out a few moments of life to remember and honor.
I’m the cemetery visitor in my immediate family. I think, though, that I am the last in a long line of grave site caretakers. My great-grandmother and both grandmothers with whom I grew up – they were all Sunday-morning-after-church-services visitors to the cemetery. I often accompanied them as I was the one with the young knees and strong arms. I could run along the gravel paths without fear of turning an ankle or falling. We often brought live plants that required digging holes, setting in, mounding, and watering. In Autumn, we brought rakes so that I could rake leaves off the long line of family plots. Even little clippers to trim the summer’s blades of grass that sprang up in the improper of places.
I still take my mother to the cemetery when I visit my hometown. We now decorate with artificial flowers that can be re-used every year. And we decorate seasonally – Christmas poinsettias, then red and white carnations for Valentine’s Day, followed in quick procession by spring flowers, Memorial Day in red, white and blue, summer flowers, Fourth of July, and finally fall flowers. In early December we start with Christmas again. And the seasons recycle, each set of flowers returns to the cemetery at just the right time.
I’d rather just wander around, look around, examine. But the flower tradition has been in place for a hundred years in my maternal family. I don’t live near the family site. Hundreds of miles away, actually. So I wonder what will happen when I no longer have living relatives to visit in my hometown.