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Parties and Summer ... and Remembering


It's Friday of Memorial Day weekend. I always look forward to this holiday. It is the beginning, as some say, of the "unofficial" beginning of summer. It's that. But truly, it is so much more.

As we speak, I'm writing out a menu that will serve about 4 families, lots of teenagers; I'm calendaring activities from croquet on the lawn to archery to baseball; baking brownies that will sit on our table with tiny American flags ... and trying to pack all at the same time.

Memorial Day is certainly about fun and about family ... and even about summer, if the weather cooperates.

But in all the fun and celebrating, I am always mindful of what Memorial Day is really all about.

Did you know that Memorial Day was originally called, "Decoration Day"? I love that ... Decorating. It speaks of remembrance and honor. It is fitting and it is worthy.

I wrote a blog last year called, "Poppies of Memorial Day," where I posted on the history of the poppy. This year I had planned to write about peonies ... because to me, peonies always represent Memorial Day. Most of our family graves are in Central Washington where the peonies are in abundant bloom.

Memorial Day history: (see source)
"Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State."
I am a genealogy lover. It is one of my most beloved hobbies. I am now tracking almost 15,000 ancestors. It's my way, I guess, of keeping their memory and their life and their significance ... alive. They matter, to someone at least.

That being said, I came across a disturbing article from CBS 60 Minutes recently that reported an egregious trend, which began in the outskirts of Chicago, where headstones were destroyed and removed, bodies dug up and put in mass graves so that the existing plots could be resold at staggering profits. And Chicago is not alone. Cemeteries in Los Angeles have told their workers to pack coffins in so tight that they crumble and break, all in order to make greater profits.

The disturbing news is that, at least in the case of Chicago, there are no records. Where are the families, the friends, the offspring or descendants? Is there no one left who can visit their graves, who will come, even on a holiday weekend, and "decorate" their graves on Memorial Day? Does no one remember, or perhaps, care any longer?

So, as we have our fun and our celebrations and our "previews" of summer this weekend, let us also not forget the true meaning behind Memorial Day. Visit a family member's grave, if you can. If there are no grave sites near you, visit a cemetery and walk through the plots, look at the flags and the beautiful flowers ... and remember the people buried there. They once had lives and loves and families. They are people who should be remembered.

Have fun this weekend ... and be mindful of who you are, where you came from, and to whom you belong.

To find family grave sites of ancestors ... here is one of my favorite sources:

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