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May 30.22 Memorial Day: Coping, but barely


You’d have to be as old as I am, dear reader, to remember the days of packing red geraniums into the trunk of a car and heading out to cemeteries. Every year at the end of May. It was boring. I hated it.

We’d clean winter’s debris off the graves and then plant the flowers. Guess who was sent for water. There were faucets in the cemetery spaced with the express purpose of making kids walk miles with sloshing, heavy watering cans.

There was always a moment of prayer. What videos play in our heads at such moments! I can only imagine the videos that played in my grandparents’ and my parents’ heads: wars, polio and flu epidemics, floods, heart attacks, cancer.

The video in my head had to do with my bike, waiting for me to start summer vacation.

My complaints, registered every five minutes or so, were roundly ignored; it was Decoration Day, after all, and this tedious, bleak trek to the cemetery was non-negotiable, as were many family dicta. Against my young will, I learned that it wasn’t about the geraniums; it was about lives lived. Real lives. It was about remembering.

Decoration Day became Memorial Day and a three-day weekend, honoring real lives lost in service to this country’s ideals. Remembering.

This Memorial Day comes in a bloodbath. Locally and globally we are awash in the blood of real lives. I hope those who lost their lives in service to this country, in service to ideals, aren’t sorry they made the sacrifice. And I wish all kids were thinking only about their bikes.


My family served, but none died in service.

I do not pretend to the grief this day renews for many.

But I do think of the graves and the real lives lost.

It becomes harder to remember peace.



19 thoughts on “May 30.22 Memorial Day: Coping, but barely

  1. Sincerely said and felt, Maureen. As a child I visited the cemeteries with my grandparents. We also had a lawn mower in the trunk of the old Dodge, and my grandfather would mow the grass while my grandmother tended the flowers. In several of the cemeteries, there were wild blueberries mixed in with the grass, and I would sit and pick berries waiting to leave. Today feels more somber and heavy than usual with all that is going on around us. It’s hard to catch your breath thinking about all the lives lost. Thank you for this sincere post, and I hope some of your handsome feathered friends come by for a visit.

  2. Thanks, Judy! It is so good to read about your childhood memories and how much like mine! A lawn mower in the trunk? That is most impressive. You might have suspected that I was thinking of your family as I wrote this. I have little doubt that you still feel the loss, as do too many others. I do not remember aching like this for any other Memorial Day in our past. I think Senator Murphy’s words “what are we doing?” should become as immortal as “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

  3. You captured that memory perfectly, Maureen. We had three cemeteries to visit. Two with our dad, one with mom and her mom. How true about the location of the water. I still visit two cemeteries when we visit Pittsburgh. I drag our daughter along. We perform the drill.

    This year, the sadness is more real. I feel we’ve let those soldiers down. We’ve failed to maintain the freedom they died to preserve.

    • Thank you, Dan! It is so good to read how you and Judy share these memories. How wonderful that you drag your daughter into such a tradition. I am far from all those graves now, but I do remember. I’m also glad — though “glad” isn’t quite the right word — to know that I’m not the only one worried that our ideals have been lost. I think we are indeed running the risk of letting down all who have died for those ideals.

  4. Maureen, thanks for sharing your story of geraniums at the cemetary. My family never took such a pilgrimage, but still took the time to honor the fallen on Memorial Day.

    I am heartsick at the loss of 18 more children and 2 adults at a school. I can’t fathom how our politicians do nothing about gun violence and still sleep at night.

    • AMEN to that — I can’t fathom it either. There is so much right now I cannot understand. As for our pilgrimages, I have learned there are many ways to remember; the geraniums are only one way. It’s the remembering and the honoring that are critical. I’m not sure we honor anything at all by shooting each other, let alone by shooting children.

  5. Your last paragraph is powerful. I too hope that those who gave us the ultimate sacrifice aren’t rolling over in those graves with what’s become of us. Great post. – Marty

  6. We are far from our cemeteries in our family. Like you, we lost no one to war. Today we remember those who did. Their lives were changed forever. Thank you for your post, Maureen.

  7. I was bored at cemeteries, too, but my family was so unusually somber on those visits, I just laid low and stayed out of the way after the knelt prayers. Now, I understand their sadness. ♥️🇱🇷💔

    • Sometimes it takes a while to catch on, but I think they taught us even when we were hard to teach. Kids shouldn’t know that sadness. Some do, but they shouldn’t.

  8. I used to avoid cemeteries, and didn’t spend much time in them as a child. My sweetheart has gradually cured me of that as he often visits them. I haven’t noticed many red geraniums, but will be looking out for them.

    I wish you were not so accurate in observing that Memorial Day comes in a bloodbath and that it becomes harder to remember peace.

    • Yes, I wish so too. I am glad that you have been persuaded to cemetery exploring; you’ve had lovely images from some!

  9. You captured many of my thoughts perfectly, Maureen. Even after all the grief and overwhelming loss, we don’t seem to learn.

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