Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day at the Cemetery

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, I hope we will all take time to reflect on the reason for the holiday.

One of the traditions in my family when growing up was to visit the family graves.  Because we lived in a part of the country where winter could linger well into June, Memorial Day weekend was the perfect time to clean up after the long winter and place flowers.  It's heartening to hear about the various celebrations taking place in the Twin Cities at the various cemeteries, and to read that volunteers are out all weekend placing flags.  I used to love all of the flags fluttering in the breeze, not knowing as a child what the real significance of this beauty represented.

My Dinkel grandparents, Benjamin Ernest and Ella Helene are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Duluth, MN.  It is truly one of the most beautiful and peaceful places, and it was such a joy to visit every year.  This is a picture of my grandparent's grave, and from left to right; my brothers Jeff and Tim, and me taken in 1961.  Looks like the picture was developed in September, but was actually taken on Memorial Day, which is the only time we would visit.  In the background was the pond where we could feed the ducks, geese, and swans.  Always a happy memory.

If you have a few moments this weekend, I hope you will take some time to visit family at the cemetery, or just stop by one of the many celebrations taking place on Memorial Day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Makes Me Wonder

Today had me hopping over to the St. John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery in New Brighton, MN.  It is a small cemetery, but for some reason it has a number of photo requests on, and being a volunteer, decided to stop in on this lovely Minnesota day.  With the price of gas so astronomic, I usually throw in a few chores, and stopped to pick up a quick sandwich to enjoy in this typically quiet and peaceful spot.

Then the rain came, and a truck with multiple lawnmowers that sat and waited with me.  Then, a lone lady, who parked, put on her raincoat and went and stood quietly for about five minutes near a grave, then slipped away.  And it made me wonder....

Who was she there to see on this rainy afternoon?  She looked no older than 45.  I hoped it wasn't a husband or a child, or even a parent.  Perhaps it was a friend's birthday.  Hopefully it was a grandparent, who had lived a very long and happy life.

As I reflected on this, I realized that "wondering" is one of the many reasons I love cemeteries.  I look at the graves and stones of people I've never met, whose families I will never know, and I wonder about their story.  I wonder what kind of life they had, what was it like when they left the world, who was sad when they left, did they leave the world a better place.  If they were very young, what happened?

The last time I was at St. John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery, my curiosity brought me to some new graves. It was two children, and a little teddy bear was sticking out of the ground along with a few other childlike things.  Not far from them was another new grave, and it appeared this could be their mother.  They all died on the same day.  So I wondered.  A quick search on the internet revealed it was indeed a mother and two children.  She had taken the lives of her children, and then herself.

And, I wondered.