Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day just happens to be our Brother's birthday this year. Since he is our only Brother, we are totally in love;) Happy Birthday Brother!!

Now about Memorial Day. A few years ago, Rebecca and I drove our kiddos up to Utah. It happened to be over Memorial Day. Since we were spending time with our Grandmothers, we did what they did. Our Paternal Grandma also calls it *Decoration Day*. We had no idea why she called it that. But we soon found out. On Memorial Day they go to the cemeteries and decorate the headstones of family and loved ones. Ok. We were game. We packed up the kiddos and headed out. We had no idea what we were in store for.

Armed with several potted flowers and plants, we got to the little cemetery in Tooele, UT. We started following Grandma as she walked along the rows until she came to a familiar place. It was the resting place of one of our family members. She got down on her hands and knees and cleaned off the headstone, pulled some grass from around it and carefully placed one of the plants on the stone. We followed her around as she walked around pointing out other stones with family members names on them. She would tell us about the person as we helped clean off the stone and place the plants.

Grandma talked about how she always runs into cousins or long lost relatives on Decoration Day. It is the sweetest thing. I know that is what they called it years ago.

We then headed over to our other Grandma's place in Salt Lake. We took her and a handful of potted flowers to another cemetery. After the time we had with our Paternal Grandma, we knew what to expect. We got a little lost and had to ask for a map. We quickly found the stones we were looking for. While we were there, sure enough, our Uncle and Aunt were there standing over our family member's stone. They had brought a hand broom, some garden shears and a wire clothes hanger. They used the clothes hanger to keep the pot in place. They were cleaning up the stones so nicely.

Initially I thought going to the cemetery was creepy. But after a full day of decorating, I was full of love for my family, for our heritage and for the connection I felt with them all. When we left the cemeteries, there were flowers and even flags for the men and women that fought for our country all over the place. It was so pretty and uplifting. Something I'll remember forever. I know Memorial Day is typically for the armed forces. We do have a lot of family that have served. But it was a nice time to remember all our loved ones.

I'm trying to figure how to teach my kids about the whole concept behind Memorial Day. I think it is hard to understand war and fighting for someone else. I think the first thing they have to have is patriotism. Since my kids are still fairly young, I think it is something that will evolve to more of the true meaning of the holiday as they get older. Something I think that is harder to get is the feeling of patriotism in a big city. At least that has been my experience.

I have always loved the poem In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

We used to live in Maryland. When I got married my family came out for the wedding. My Grandpa had been a young buck in the war. And my Father is a huge history buff. We went to some of the war memorials with them and they were reduced to tears. Such a moving time for me.

We went back to Maryland for a visit last year, my husband and two boys and me. I finally got to see the WWII memorial. This time I was brought to tears. My boys played at the water feature and I wandered around looking and thinking about the people that the memorial represented. They asked me why I had tears in my eyes and I couldn't exactly put it into words that they could understand. I hope that over time I will be able to express to them what those tears were for. I still can't exactly put it into words. I treasure my pictures from the memorial.

I'd love to hear what you do for Memorial Day. What do you teach your kids about it? What did you do as a kid?


twinkle teaches said...

Such a wonderful post. We talked about the meaning of Memorial Day today with our 4 year old. We spent family time fishing (his first time), swimming and watching movies. Later this week I will be visiting my grandpa's grave site.

Anonymous said...


I was interested to read your post on your Memorial Day. We have something similar here in New Zealand (and Australia). It is called ANZAC Day and it is held on April 25th each year. This year is the first time I have had any participation in any way. We started he day at 5.30am for the Dawn Parade outside our Parliament grounds- my two step-daughters were part of the parade as their Girl Guide unit is in the CBD area of town. Having never been to a dawn service, or any kind of ANZAC Day remembrance I found it very's incredible how the silence focuses one in on the real reason for being there at an hour we wouldn't normally even be was wonderful to see all the people from the oldest remaining veterans to the youngest of the children all with such a respectful attitude...and then applauding the veterans as they paraded past at the end of the service.

Later in the morning we went to our local parade as my son's Cub Scout group was involved in that. It was different...not as solemn as the first parade but definitely worth listening to the speakers and the things they had to say...and yes, just as emotional as earlier on...and wonderful to see the community turn out to support and respect our history.

We will do this again next year...of that I have no doubt. Do you have parades that you can go to? makes things seem a bit more real I think...seeing the actual people who have been and fought for our freedom - whether it was last year or last century.

It is important that we never forget...and help our children to understand even if we don't have family that served in the wars (like myself)...perhaps it is something that comes more with age.

Anyway, I've said more than enough...I hope it's been useful in some small way.

MammaDucky said...

Lovely post. Saturday we took the kids to the library and checked out some kiddie books on Memorial Day. We read those over the weekend.
My kids have seen Daddy in his uniform, although I'm sure they don't understand what it means. In one of the books they had a drawing of a Marine in his dress blues and one of my girls shouted out, "Look! It's Daddy!" Made him grin from ear to ear.
I made a sheet cake and decorated it with blueberries and strawberries to look like a flag. The girls wondered whose birthday it was. I tried to explain that today (Memorial Day) was special and that we were to remember and honor everyone that has "been brave" for us. What else can you say to a 3 1/2 yr old?