Ever since 1971 when federal law made Memorial Day the last Monday in May so people could have a three-day weekend, most people associate the holiday with cookouts, camping trips, visits to amusement parks and other leisure activities.
But those who have fond memories of when the 30th of May and Memorial Day were synonymous can recall when the holiday featured scenes that would mystify those accustomed to the Monday holiday. Area cemeteries were hives of activity as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people turned out to honor the memory of loved ones.
Even more surprisingly, many of those cemetery visitors came bearing floral remembrances for their departed relatives and friends. Sometimes, these were potted flowers. Often, they were peonies and lilacs they gathered from gardens and placed in repurposed jars.
My parents led my two brothers and me, and later our sister, on 2-mile round trip hikes to visit the graves of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Now, more than a few decades later, the mortal remains of our parents, beloved aunts and uncles, and old friends are resting under the cemetery sod.
These days you no longer encounter crowds if you visit cemeteries on Memorial Day. The marble and granite rows are as quiet as a… you know what. You will still see some flower containers and artificial arrangements, but the generations who had gone there before have gone on themselves. Eventually, there may be no one to carry on the annual Memorial Day tradition.
For those who remember what the holiday was once like, it is bittersweet. It is sad to think that such a lovely custom is fading away like a wilting bouquet of peonies in a jar.
However, memories of our departed loved ones remain with us until illness takes them from us or until we join them.
Then, those memories will be as unnecessary as the floral remembrances. If we have lived our lives the way God wants us to — in and for love of Him and others — we’ll be reunited forever with those we love.
God always remembers us.
Love never forgets.