Decoration Day

The stone-carved names read like my grade school roll call: Kapusta, Brusch, Karpiak, Chybik, Wydick. The Polish and Slavic names I heard every day, that I knew how to pronounce without thinking about them, were the grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles of my school mates. My sister and I played among these stones, while Daddy knelt at the one that bore his name. He’d tenderly till the soil around the stone, then gently pat begonias, geraniums and marigolds into the ground. Then he’d place the large flower urn that he had carefully planted in our greenhouse back home, under the name of his father, next to the flag. Then, job well done, he’s stand, call us to silent prayer, then depart. This was our annual Decoration Day ritual, the day to honor the fallen.

Now this task is mine. My parent’s grave has two stone vases, into which I’ve placed artificial flowers. There’s forsythia for the spring, mums or poinsettias for the winter. With these flowers in place year-long, I don’t have to come for Decoration Day any more to plant flowers, but I do. I almost didn’t do it this year: with my family’s home sold, I seldom get to this place almost an hour’s drive away. Even when I did come often, the potted annuals would always fare poorly throughout the summer, with only sporadic watering and deadheading. In recent years I had turned to planting the hardiest and most drought-resistant annuals I could find, instead of my parent’s favorites, but still they’d be small and dry, barely alive, each time I visited.

But planting flowers for Decoration Day is a tradition ingrained in me as a child. It just didn’t seem right to let it go, not yet anyway. So my husband and I dutifully brought a pot of flowers to this place of stones. Yellow zinnias for Mom, red snapdragons for Dad. He would have preferred geraniums, but they would never survive in this untended spot. We place the flower pot, tidy the grave, straighten the flag and say our silent prayers. Just as I did as a child.

© Huffygirl 2012

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16 thoughts on “Decoration Day

  1. I can see you standing there, HG, and know what it feels like. Since we left Texas, I haven’t been able to visit the graves of my parents and sister. I know the people’s loved aren’t there anymore, but somehow I liked being able to stand in front of their gravestones at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery and say a little prayer or talk to them.

    • I’m sorry you can’t be there Susan. Must be people our age who learned the tradition of visiting graves – I don’t know too many younger people who think about it.

    • Thanks. I so remember how dedicated that Daddy was to putting flowers on his father’s grave, that it never feels right if I don’t go. Remember playing in the cemetery while he planted there? I thought those three wooden crosses were the real Gethsemane. Somehow that made perfect sense to me.

  2. This post really touched me because I’m just catching my breath after a very long day of driving the width of Pennsylvania to visit family graves and leave flowers – all the way from my husband’s great-great-something-grandfather (born in 1845) to my cousin. And that’s a wonderful photo!

    • Thanks Sharon. I snapped that photo a few years ago of our little great nephew putting the flag on my Dad’s grave. It was a touching moment for all of us.

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