Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Memories

My mother, Lavern Croft Joyce, at the tombstone of her parents, Herman Reeves Croft (1896 - 1970) and Nettie C. Vaughn (1897 - 1958) in Salem Cemetery, Livingston County, Kentucky Memorial Day 1959.

One of the greatest things we can do for our children is to teach them how they fit into this world – the place created just for them by their ancestors. When I was growing up, parents and children cleaned and decorated family graves together on Memorial Day. With every pulled weed or flower placed on a grave, a memory of each relative was invoked – a nickname, a special trait, the color of their hair and how they fit into the family. I learned about Great Aunt Eddie Vaughn Pittillo and how much I resemble her in appearance. I learned who made the concrete border for little Edith’s grave. I learned that the red hair running through the Joyce family comes from Great Grandmother Mary Ann Smith and that she smoked a pipe and used Star brand tobacco. I also learned that her father, Hugh Wolstenholme, "washed his hands in the clouds" when he crossed the mountains. Those stories should not be forgotten.

By noon we were ready for a break of sandwiches and ice cold drinks, welcome treats as it was sure to be hot and sunny on Memorial Day in southern Illinois and western Kentucky. And then it was back to work and we continued until the grass was trimmed, weeds were all pulled and each grave had a bouquet of flowers stuck in a Mason jar or coffee can. There was a sense of satisfaction when we packed up and headed for home.

I worry that when I am gone, my children will no longer visit the little country cemeteries and, oh, how I hope they don’t forget the stories of their ancestors.

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