Memorial Day has always been a very special day for me. It's the day to remember all the men and women who have served in our military, those who have given their lives to protect our freedoms. It's also a day to bless those who continue to serve and their families who wait for them at home.
I grew up in Iowa, in the heart of the Midwest where Memorial Day was also known as Decoration Day. It was a day to decorate the graves of our family and friends in addition to honoring Memorial Day and we spent the entire day decorating graves with fresh flowers. By the end of May in Iowa, we had fragrant lilacs, beautiful peonies and wild flowers to pick, and we used three pound coffee cans for vases. My mother and I would put all the fresh flowers in buckets of water, and load them and the empty coffee cans in our car for the trip to Colfax.
On the way, Mom would share stories of growing up in Colfax, of how her Daddy worked in the coal mines and where they lived. Another favorite story was when her mother sent her to town to buy bread, and let her ride one of the farm horses. She wasn't supposed to gallop the horse, but she did and lost the quarter for the bread. By the time these stories were told, we were at the Colfax cemetery where we put out coffee cans of water and arranged the flowers on the graves of our family. She would show me her parents' graves, tell me about each gravestone and explain who they were. Some of our family had served in the military and the veterans would have already placed flags at their graves.
In later years, after my Mom's sister died, we added a trip to the Mitchellville cemetery to our Memorial Day plans; there we decorated the graves of Aunt Opal and Uncle Virgil. When my son was old enough to go with us, he too learned the stories Mom would share and where all the cemeteries were located.
By the time I moved away from Iowa in 1984, my parents and paternal grandparents had passed. They are buried in Newton Union Cemetery in Newton, Iowa where they create an avenue of flags for Memorial Day, with huge American flags on flag poles lining the main drive. I continued the tradition of putting fresh flowers on all the family graves until I moved.
Here in Florida I honor Memorial Day and Decoration Day both. I hang my American flag - this is a photo of my flag today. And I always plant colorful annuals in a huge flower pot to enjoy all summer. These flowers remind me of Decoration Day and all the traditions I learned many years ago.
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