The Dead Stay Put


 

The dead stay put and in my family we put them on a dry, dusty and often windy hillside in Dayton.  Memorial Day is more than a time off work or even a national holiday in my family, it is a family holiday; it is the family holiday.  Nothing, not Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, the Fourth of July, birthdays or anniversaries is more important to us.  One day during Memorial Day weekend, usually the Monday, but not always, we gather on that hillside pull weeds, put water and flowers in glass jars and then rake the sand.  In the process we also walk around the cemetery, up the hill, collect rocks, plant cactus, catch lizards and engage in a variety of other family traditions.

This year was a blustery year, the wind blew all day, the sky was overcast and it was cold.   There have been other cold and windy days; I have a visual proof in picture of me carrying my granddaughter.  In the picture, Natasha Marie is just past her second birthday –  now she is 21-years old – she and I are headed towards our family plot.  You can see the wind is battering us about and you can tell it was cold.  Still that day as always, we weeded and raked; and in the wind and cold day Tashie learned her first lessons in weeding and raking.  It is part of our contract with the dead, they stay where we put them, we visit them, clean things up, put out flowers and keep them updated on our ever changing lives.

Visiting Charlotte, Byron and Belle Gates, Poppy, Ken Burke, Polly, Maria and the others helps us remember we are a family, it reminds us that families are held together with common memories, shared experiences, traditions and a common ancestry.  The dead never fail in their role, they don’t move about, leave town or change their opinions; they are the rocks upon which our lives are built.  So each year, we faithfully climb the hill to the cemetery and begin again to clean the graves and tell their stories and our stories once again.

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