Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Treasures of Memories

Prairie Rose Cemetery just doesn't seem the same without this beautiful pine in its southwest corner. I am so glad I took this picture three years ago because this year when we went for Memorial Day the tree was entirely gone - victim of the pine borer.
For me visiting a cemetery has always been an interesting, peaceful excursion. Whether I am in a cemetery by myself or in the company of others, I generally walk around reading headstones, thinking about the people buried there; wondering about their lives and how that affected me if they are ancestors. Every once in awhile I discover the grave of a new ancestor as in the case of the Cecil's at Nodaway Cemetery a couple of years ago. When that happens it is often the result of having found them first online through the 'Find A Grave' project.
Many of the Find A Grave contributions in SW Iowa have been posted by Marty and Harley. They are a dog and its owner from what I can glean. I don't know which is which. I tend to think Harley is the dog and Marty is the person, but is Marty a her or him? I guess it doesn't matter. It is just my natural curiosity to know who this person is. I would like to meet someone else who finds treasures in the memories of a cemetery - and then is motivated to share those finds online with the rest of us.

Part of their bio is this quote: "A man lives as long as he is remembered...." followed by an anonymous poem: Your tombstone stands among the rest; neglected and alone. The name and date are chiseled out on polished marble stone. It reaches out to all who care; it is too late to mourn. You did not know that I exist; you died and I was born. Yet each of us are cells of you in flesh, in blood, in bone. Our blood contracts and beats a pulse entirely not our own. 
Throw back the shoulders, let the heart sing. Let the eyes flash, let the mind be lifted up, look upward and say to yourself, 'Nothing is Impossible.' 
Dear Ancestor - The place you filled one hundred years ago spreads out among the ones you left who would have loved you so. I wonder if you lived and loved? I wonder if you knew that someday I would find this spot and come to visit you? ("When your loved one becomes a memory, every memory becomes a treasure".)

When I used to come back to take my Mom & my beloved Grandma Ridnour around to the cemeteries on Memorial weekend, Grandma Delphia once said to me as we were placing flowers on the graves: "I know who will put flowers on my grave, but who will put flowers on your's?" At the time I privately acknowledged the compliment I thought she was paying me. But as the years have gone by and I see that the younger generations are not going to have the same regard toward Memorial Day as Grandma's and Mom's and mine, I truly begin to understand what she meant.

It no longer matters to me because I plan to be cremated and have my ashes divided and scattered in the four directions, but I'd still like to think some of the grandchildren would put flowers on Mom & Dad's graves. Then when I think about Marty & Harley's contributions I wonder if I/we should have a gravestone at Prairie Rose (I have a plot, next to her, bought when my sister died) even if we aren't buried beneath it - just so some future great or great-great grandchild could someday stand there and wonder about me as I do about my ancestors.

On Memorial Day weekend as I make my way to all the various cemeteries, I walk around and view the names not only of my relatives but of all the many people who once touched my life. I think about them and the lessons they may have taught me or the funny anecdotes their names recall. Sometimes I see the undecorated grave sites of relatives of  friends or classmates who live far away and wonder if they regret that they can't come back every year to decorate their loved one's final resting places. With the same feelings I imagine motivate Marty and Harley, I wonder if those far-away friends would like me to place some flowers for them. (As I have done for one of my friends when illness prevented her from coming back.)

Several years ago when I was wandering among the tombstones at Nodaway on a pleasant summer day, I was just leaving as a car with a California license plate arrived. Had time allowed I would have waited to see what grave they visited. Would they have turned out to be some distant relative? I've always wondered about them since. Maybe that was even Marty and Harley?

Tomorrow we go to retrieve our plastic offerings of two weeks ago, another few moments to treasure our memories of loved ones passed.

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