Memorial Day — a time to remember

ESCANABA – Memorial Day weekend means a lot of things.

Things like the first summer three-day weekend of the year, the school year nearly over, graduation, travel, camping

All of these wonderful things come under one sub-heading “flowers.”

Yes, flowers are the single most important thing on Memorial Day. Those simple flowers stand for those who gave their lives for our country.

It’s about a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldiers and it’s about our ancestors. Grandfathers, pioneers, Doughboys, aviators, farmers, nurses, teachers, factory workers and mothers, many of our ancestors are heroes to some degree.

The flowers are for them. Many groups mark the graves of veterans with American flags for this holiday weekend.

Families sometimes get out to the “family plot” with flowers and urns for this special weekend.

Memorial Day’s original intention was to have a day set aside to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War. Loved ones decorated the graves with flowers. Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day” at first. Memorial Day observances date back to 1882 or older.

The holiday was changed from May 30 to the “last Monday in May” in 1971 to create the three day holiday weekend.

But, it does really seem to matter what us humans seem to do about this remembrance day, Mother nature and God take care of decorating ALL of the cemeteries in the U.P.

Tall, proud, pure-white trilliums grow in honor by the gravestones of many service men and women. Tiny, dainty violets thrive around the resting places of mothers, babies and grandmothers.

Apple blossoms and cherry blossoms gently rain down like confetti on the headstones of our ancestors. Lilacs and lily-of-the- valleys fill the air with a timeless fragrance that helps us to reflect on the sacrifices our forefathers and mothers made for us.

Over the years, Memorial Day has lost some of its significance. Instead of “a moment of silence,” a prayer for the deceased, or flowers for the cemetery, we think only about hopping in the car and heading out to celebrations.

Some of us old timers still bring flowers to cemeteries, brush away the pine cones and reminisce. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and other groups still place “Old Glory” on the stones of veterans. For years my mother and her siblings took turns filling the urn and bringing it out to the cemetery. Since I got married, we often paid a visit to the site of my husband’s family graves in Rapid River.

I recall the year I was expecting Ellen, and my son got away from me at the cemetery and started pulling out all of the tiny flags. How quickly my husband and I replaced them and how much one can learn about family history from a cemetery visit.

If you can’t bring out flowers, bring out the family photo album. Talk to your kids about their ancestors especially about the ones who served their country.

As the wildflowers bloom and the trees bud, enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, and take just a moment to remember.

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of North Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.