Monday, May 25, 2015

Decoration Day

Mother and Dad at my sister Joyce's grave, July 1952
My mother-in-law always called it Decoration Day. She was devoted to keeping flowers on the Plummer graves at Heber Cemetery.  For years, it was a tradition to drive to Heber with coffee cans filled with iris, peonies and roses from her garden and arrange them just so for Tom's grandparents, an aunt, who died on the dance floor at 21, an uncle, who died in his mid-thirties, and his father, who died the year we got married, 1964.  Then we'd have a picnic with enough food for a church supper. Elva, Tom's mother, was all about feeding people, a gift I did not fully appreciate during her lifetime.

Forgive me, dead people, for all the things I didn't appreciate while you lived. Forgive me.

Tom and I dawdled up to Heber today and ate Kentucky Fried chicken in a parking lot. Not exactly a picnic, but we get by as best we can. We laid pots of flowers bought at Smith Marketplace on the gravesites, including Elva's.  What I missed was Elva giving us a running commentary about the dead. Good stories.  She always said, "No one will come here when I'm gone."

Over our dead bodies. I skip my own parents, but I'd never skip decorating Elva's grave.

Then we drove to the Salt Lake Cemetery and placed a pot of flowers on my sister Joyce's grave, who has been dead almost sixty three years.  My mother must be 29 and my father 34 when the photo above was taken.

Then onto grand-daugher Lucy's grave. She and Joyce both lived four months.  Sharon Kamerath, Lucy's other grandmother, lies just beyond Lucy's grave.  Someone had left a handful of buttons on her gravesite.  That's because Sharon has let the living know that she's still around by showing up as stray buttons in odd places.  Just like she promised before she died.

I don't know what to make of the dead.

That we are born at all seems so implausible.  So I'm pretty much stumped by the living as well.

I skipped my parents.  Still mad at my father for buying burial plots on Redwood Road, the ugliest cemetery in the city.

I like to keep that fight going.


  1. Sarah's mom and her buttons. It's so sweet and sad and lovely.

  2. I learned about the buttons just recently. I like that they were there today.

  3. I learned about the buttons just recently. I like that they were there today.

  4. I like this American tradition you have to remember your dead by visiting and decorating their grave sites. I was recently thinking about KFC and how we don't call it "Kentucky FRIED chicken" anymore even though it is. A boxed lunch wherever is still a picnic.

  5. I love cemeteries and grave sites. My dearest loss was my sister nearly a decade ago. She was cremated, no grave site. As were my two favorite great Aunties. And so, too, will be my parents. I probably will choose that route, too. But let me say, I do love a stroll through a cemetery with its dates, and quotes, and surmises. Just this month that Spouse o' Mine and I stopped off on our weekly Saturday bike ride, to pay respects in our local cemetery for a neighbor.

    I think cemeteries are cathartic.