Memorial Day Traditions

As a kid we would do the cemetery circuit around Memorial Day.

We would start out by decorating one of my sister’s graves. She died at a very young age, years before I was born, and is buried in the family plot in my hometown. At the time, the family plot was only occupied by this one small grave, but with time moving on this plot is quickly filling up.

We would start by giving the headstone a cleaning if needed, pulling up any weeds, evening up the edges of the planting bed, loosening up the dirt and then planting an arrangement of drought tolerant annuals.

Geraniums were a staple. Really, to this day I think of cemeteries when I see geraniums. Marigolds and dusty miller were other favorites. You had to stick with plants that didn’t need a lot of attention and could stand the blazing summer sun.

Last on the agenda was watering the plants. I loved this part. I would take the bucket and skip down to the pump. My Mom didn’t fancy me skipping in a cemetery, but as soon as I was out of her eyesight I was skipping along, bucket swinging, pigtails flying.

This was one of those old fashioned hand pumps that took forever and a day of pumping before water would pour out. It took almost my entire body weight pushing on that lever to move the handle. After maybe five to ten pumps (at the point that I thought my arms would explode) the water would start.

Inevitably I would get my tennis shoes wet, because once the water started coming out of the pump, it would gush out with an impressive force. Being a kid, I never minded though. It was almost refreshing to walk back to the gravesites in wet sneakers.

Next up was my Dad’s Father’s grave a couple towns over. Same procedure, different cemetery. There were a couple people who I didn’t know, but who we were remotely related to, buried close by and we would pay our respects.

Then it was off to Pennsylvania to decorate my Mom’s family graves and again, a handful of people I was somehow related to, but not sure how.

We would walk around the graveyard and my Mom would point out different people that she had known or was related to. Occasionally, we would stop at one of those graves and, if there were no flowers planted, we would take one of our extras (because we always brought extra flowers) and plant it so that they were taken care of for Memorial Day.

I think in these instances my Mom knew that there would be no one else coming along to pretty up their gravesites.

Occasionally we would have lunch in the cemetery. Bologna and ketchup sandwiches. Maybe peanut butter and jelly. I can remember spreading a blanket, getting the picnic basket out of the station wagon and having a relaxing lunch under the tree.

And let me tell you there is nothing more relaxing than the quiet and solitude of a cemetery.

Things have changed a little. My cousins in Pennsylvania primarily take care of the graves over there now.

A few years ago, I tried to take my Mom over to my Grandfather’s grave a few towns over and believe it or not neither one of us could remember where it was. And I’m not talking about the grave, I’m talking about the town! At this point she had dementia fairly badly and I don’t know what my excuse was, but we never made it to the town. We finally gave up and returned home with the geraniums in the back seat.

My Mom died last year, so I decided to plant perennials up at the family cemetery since it is a good 2 1/2 hour drive from my house. It’s not quite the same thing as our old routine, but it gets the job done and the graves still look like they have been cared for. I think my Mom would like the simplicity of it all.

So, I will not be driving up there this weekend, but I will make the trip up there later in the summer. At that time I will just add some more mulch, water my sneakers a little and check on the perennials.

I was feeling a little guilty this year that I was not doing a cemetery tour. But you know what? All the photos in this post are from a cemetery I visited this week. I don’t know a sole there, but it’s a great old cemetery in Columbus that has some fantastic monuments. I went there to take some photos (they actually have a photo contest, so it didn’t feel too weird to walk around there with a camera).

So I guess I did do a cemetery tour this year, just not in the traditional sense.

So what are you doing for Memorial Day weekend this year? Any plans for visiting the cemetery?

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  1. says

    What a beautiful post. The images are just gorgeous and moving. You’re such a good photographer. We’ve got lots on the agenda, antiquing, cleaning, celebrating a 19th wedding anniversary and hoping that the rain finally moves on so that we can enjoy the outdoors and get that garden into shape.

    Have a blessed weekend, Pam.

  2. says

    I just found you today,, such a moving post,, I was just at my parents grave site the other day,, I know exactly what you mean,,such lovely photos,

  3. says

    I must be weird…but you knew that…I take photos in cemeteries all the time. This is a lovely place you photographed and your images are very serene. We are going to Athens, Ga. to spend time with Joe’s brother. They are garage sale people too so I still get to go!

  4. says

    I’m weird too – have and love cemeterie/gravestone pictures, yours are great. My husband and I are helping at the Memorial day parade Chicken BBQ on Saturday and having dinner at a friend’s house on Sunday. Notice how I just mention all the fun stuff?

  5. says

    Gorgeous statues!
    My mom used to take me to the cementary on special occasions to visit her mom’s grave and week and plant. This brought back memories…getting the water , skipping over the graves which got my mom mad lol !
    The cemetaries back home are beautiful too so beautiful with winding paths that alot of locals use it for their daily power walks!
    Great post Pam! Yes my followers are missing!!

  6. Anonymous says

    I love your post, because I love genealogy so. My cousins always kid me about when we pass a cemetery, they will say “anybody we related to buried there?” Never seen geraniums in one? Here it is Iris’s, peonies. And I know my family planted peonies to have flowers to take to the cemetery on Mem Day. I have pic of them laying them.

    The cemetery you showed is beautiful and I am sure very peaceful
    Ann Sentimental Life

  7. says

    A beautiful post with pictures that convey both peace and comfort. My grandparents are buried in a cemetery in Utica where each grave is loving taken care of. Such a peaceful and beautiful place to visit to remember our loved ones.

  8. says

    I will be doing the cemetery tour here in Marion. Other than that, I plan on being a bum. I haven’t had a weekend like that for quite some time.

    Happy Memorial Day!

  9. says

    What a beautiful post and story…it is something about those precious concrete statues staring up to Heaven that gives me comfort…Being from the South, our rituals are similar…visiting graves; placing flowers; weeding; cleaning away the debris. God Bless You and Happy Memorial Day! Tiffany

  10. says

    I loved all these photos, they are fabulous! I love cemeteries, I went to my folks cemetery today. It’s the quiet peacefulness, it calms you to realize, yes, we can rest when our toils are over!

  11. says

    I loved your post. We call it Decoration Day in our family. We gather and maintain the graves, plant flowers etc.
    I loved the pictures you took. I love spending time in old cemeteries. They have so much beauty that few people even see or admire.

  12. says

    Lovely post.
    We have family coming up from Oklahoma on Saturday. Minor league ball game Saturday night and a birthday celebration for one of Ken’s Uncle’s on Sunday.
    Monday–who knows. A little of this and a little of that.

    Have a great weekend.


  13. says

    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you so much for sharing your childhood memories and these beautiful cemeteries. What a nice tradition you had with your family.
    I’m selling at an antique show on Sunday. I belong to a Military Mom’s organization here in town. We’ll be placing a wreath at the grave of a fallen Marine during the Memorial Day ceremony.
    I hope you have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend.

  14. says

    What gorgeous photos. The moss covered statues are so beautiful.
    I love your childhood memories of your cemetery visits. What a special thing to do together with your family.

  15. says

    What a beautiful post Pam…your words and your photos. Those sound like some special memories. I love your pictures, those moss covered statutes are just breathtaking. Thanks for sharing at Photo Feature Friday. Have a good weekend :)


  16. says

    What beautiful memories for a Memorial Day weekend. Your pictures are wonderful. In the town where I grew up there was a cemetery dating back to the Revolutionary War and people would come and do rubbings from the gravestones. They were really beautiful. Have a lovely long weekend.

  17. says

    Hi Pam…this is a wonderful post….so full of great memories. Your pictures of the monuments are all so neat!
    Your Mom had a great tradition for Memorial weekend.
    Love this.

  18. says

    Your photos are just beautiful. But now I feel guilty for not going to “pretty up” my grandmother’s grave. In fact, Ive never visited it.

  19. says

    What a beautiful tradition you had Pam. I think that cemeteries are beautiful and peaceful as well. We go up to my grandma and grandpa’s grave and put flowers in a container, geraniums of course, and make sure that everything looks kept up. I love driving through and looking at all the headstones and markers, benches and statues. Your photos are so beautiful and the statues are perfect.
    I hope you had a great weekend.

  20. says

    What beautiful images from your nearby cemetery! We never visited cemeteries when I was young, but whenever I travel, I love to visit them. I find the statuary, headstones and stories fascinating. Getting to the age when I’m starting to think of what I want on my own headstone LOL! It’s so nice that you put perennials at your mom’s grave. Much more long-lasting, and your mom would love it.

  21. Bonnie Schulte says

    Tomorrow, Dh and I, will visit our oldest (he was 34) son’s resting place, where we place fresh flowers, also on his birthday, and date of death. He died of cancer 16 years ago, and also, both my parents, my dad a vet, 18 years ago, so they too, will get fresh flowers. It doesn’t make us sad, like it did years ago, but now, as time has passed, it is just so peaceful to visit and talk, and remember, and put flowers in the vase, for them. So many souls there have been forgotten, because families of them are no longer alive, and some have moved away. For those, I always say a prayer. and hope someday, somebody will do the same for me. What a lovely post. Thank you..

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