Remembering

I wanted to mark Memorial Day here at BCC. This is the first year that I have lived in adulthood near the graves of my ancestors, and I was grateful for the opportunity to share our Day of the Dead (as secular and patriotic as it is in our culture, it remains our special day to honor those who have left). After some advice, a bit of recovered memory, and an impulse, I found my father’s grave without having to consult the sexton’s list (walked right to it, on the north end of the rather large city cemetery). My children danced on the graves (such a different meaning when the act arises from innocence) then bore a solemn expression for a few seconds as I explained this was where the body of their grandfather rested. Their tiny throats issued a laugh of reassurance, as they explained to me that he is happy. The two-year-old, after pointing down the metal flower pot holder, asked whether his body were there. I explained yes, and she reported that he was growing up and pretty soon he would be “a nice grown up.” The four-year-old explained that he would rise again for the resurrection, and I need not worry. Then she sang songs about Jesus. I held the infant in my arms as I sought to remember my father.

He had many problems, primarily mental illness shrouded in disorders of personality, though he died of poorly managed diabetes. In remembering him, I would not whitewash the darkness, but I would like to conjure the light. My main memory is his introducing me to Romantic music, specifically Respighi’s Pini di Roma and perhaps Dvorak’s New World Symphony (the latter may be a created memory; I am not certain). He shared with me the thrill of merging literary imagination and the aesthetics of music, as we imagined the processions through the streets of Rome, the majesty of the fountains and forests. That image stuck with me when I saw him so tenderly play his viola or cry when he heard particularly powerful pieces of Romantic music. So God bless you, dad. We think of you. And, in answer to your granddaughter’s question, yes, I do miss you, warts and all.

Feel free to share other memorials of those who have passed in this space if you feel inclined.

Comments

  1. Memorial Day has gained much more meaning for me as I actually took the effort to visit the graves of ancestors on that day. As with you, it started for me when my wife and I moved onto the street where you now live. For me that was also the first time I lived near the graves of my ancestors, having spent most of my time growing up in Dallas and Connecticut. So visiting the grave of my uncle and grandmother in the SLC City Cemetary there nestled among the Avenues was something that brought profound peace, which I noted at my blog at the time.

  2. CS Eric says:

    Memorial Day is bittersweet for me. My dad’s family never really had family reunions. The closest we ever came was Memorial Day at the Spanish Fork City Cemetary, where five generations are buried. My grandfather and his progeny are in one section, and his brothers’ family (Dad’s uncle’s) is in another section. Then my grandmother’s family is in still another section. Dad would spend the day wandering the cemetary, seeing friends and family both above and below ground.

    Then two years ago, my father-in-law died the week before Memorial Day, and we had to wait until the next Tuesday for the funeral. He was the last of my and my wife’s parents to go. My wife’s family all came for the funeral, which will probably be the last time they will all get together in the same place. On the way back home, we stopped in Spanish Fork just a few hours after my aunt had taken the flowers off our family’s graves, making that lonely weekend just a little bit lonelier. Neither of us has been back to either gravesite since.

  3. My sister died when she was 32. Yesterday was her birthday. She would’ve been 48.

    She was a paranoid schizophrenic, and she was always saying the craziest things. I was always afraid that I’d react to something she said in the wrong way and she’d think I was out to get her. She was convinced for awhile that our other sister was trying to kill her. At least, that’s what she’d tell me when she babysat me when I was a kid.

    She once called my dad up late at night to tell him she’d learned how to tap dance. She put the phone on the floor and danced for him. She was wearing socks.

    My brother died of cancer about 7 months before my sister died. He was 34. 14 years older than me. I never really know how to describe him. He was a troubled teenager and was put into a foster home when I was born. Before he died, he wanted to talk to his real father (my mom was married twice, my older siblings had a different father, but for all intents and purposes my dad was their dad). My mom got ahold of her first husband, who was not a good guy, to put it mildly. He refused to talk to my brother.

    Ironically, a few weeks later, a girl my brother fathered when he was young and never had anything to do with called up, out of the blue. She was 14 and wanted to meet her real dad. My mom had to tell her he had cancer and was too ill to talk to her. She came to his funeral.

    I have a nephew who died when he was 2 or 3. (I was 10.) I wonder sometimes what his life would’ve been like, what kind of person he would’ve grown up to be. And how different his sisters’ and mother’s life would have been if he hadn’t died.

  4. Wow Susan. Have you got some stories? Thanks for sharing.

    Re: our dad. I remember how he could make friends with and chat with anyone about anything. This was irksome as a small child waiting for him to done with Church or embarrassing when he would talk to strangers in stores etc. But now I think it’s quite impressive and I like how easily he connected with other people. I like cemeteries, talking about dead people and hot dogs. Those usually make up my Memorial Day. It’s a good holiday.

  5. We moved away from Northern Utah 14 years agoe, where most of my family and my wife’s family have lived for several generations. I never was a big one for visiting graves, until about 5 1/2 years ago. My wife’s mother died of heart related issues, and then 9 days later, my mother succumbed to her ongoing battle with cancer that had plagued her on and off for some 25 years. We made back to back trips from Washington to Utah. It was tough for both of us in many ways, but both our mother’s had been ill and in hospitals for weeks or months prior to their deaths. A year and a half later, my father died from liver issues, and was buried next to my Mom in Highland, Utah, a place where they never lived, but is close to my brother’s home.

    My wife and her family had always been very attentive to the gravesites of grandparents and great grandparents, but my side of the family not so much. Now, knowing that they are both together again, without their frailties of old age, makes visiting their graves a tender experience. We look forward to those visits when we get to Utah each year.

    The year after our Mother’s died, both my Dad, and my wife’s father, got together and did a road trip from Utah to Washington to be with us for Thanksgiving. They had a great time together, got lost in Northern California and ran out of gas, and generally had more fun than you would expect from a couple of octogenarians. We worried about them, but at the time, their health was good, and they fiercely guarded their independence. My wife’s father, who is now 84, still remembers that trip with fondness. In our family, we call it “The Grandfather Road Trip”, and still smile about it.

  6. I remember visiting that grave at that cemetery, Sam. I am charmed by the image of your joyful–and insightful–daughters celebrating their grandfather’s eternal growth. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Last friday at my father’s burial, my mother accepted the lovely cloth flag the U.S. Gov’t gives to the widows of veterans. Dad was in the Army and the Air Force, WWII and Korea but his story is unusual.
    As soon as WWII broke out, he made arrangements to join the Army Air Corps and withdraw from college. He called his father with the news and his father, a Scottish immigrant who cherished education and for whom Dad was the last hope of a college graduate in the family, asked my dad to graduate and then enlist. Roosevelt had told the nation the war would take 9 yrs to win so there would be plenty of time to serve. Dutifully, but reluctantly, dad complied. Before he could graduate but after he had all his requirements for dental school, the army asked him to go straight into dental school, finish in 3 years and serve. The 3 years ended in 1946. Feeling he had not done enough for his country, my young father of 2 was among the first to enlist for Korea, this time in the Air Force. They stationed him in his home state for his entire tour. Especially since a close friend served in a MASH unit, I think he always wondered if he had truly done his part. Many of his friends died in action. Few of the pilots who flew in 1942 came home. I’m lucky to be alive. I’m also fortunate to have a father who treasured both liberty and family.

  8. Thanks for all the stories and memories.

  9. I would like to conjure the light

    I love that Sam. In the interest of conjuring the light, I visited my Mom’s grave on Sunday. It’s usually a very quiet place but it was bustling for the holiday and I felt uncomfortable lingering there. I left her pink roses and left quickly. My wife dreams about my Mom. She says that my Mom visits us and sits by he side of the bed and gives advice. That is so exactly what my Mom would do, too. Now I don’t feel like I have to visit my Mom at her grave so much. She visits us in our bedroom.

  10. I’ve enjoyed reading this entire post. Thanks you all for sharing.

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