Cinquain: Tombs in Jerusalem by Lynn Maynard, 1996
placed on pale tombs
outside the Eastern Gate
in memory of times past with
In Jerusalem, in a cemetery just outside the East Gate of the Temple Mount, visitors leave white stones on top of the graves they visit.
This Memorial Day weekend, I thought about this custom and my own family’s tradition as we honored not only those who served and died for our country, but also remembered our loved ones.
Several weeks prior to the Day, my mother started gathering flowers from her yard and those of my aunts and uncles –calla lilies, poppies, and other flowers I cannot name. We even got “volunteers” from the edge of the back road. We stored them in containers with water in our large cooler.
The weekend before, we would drive out to the old Pioneer Section of the local graveyard, where my mother’s family had a plot. The oldest monuments belonged to my great grandparents. My grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles followed over the years. We picked up debris, pulled weeds, cleaned the markers and cut the grass to make everything ready for the next weekend.
On the Saturday before Memorial Day, we lined up metal cone vases with spikes on the bottom to shove into the soft soil. We divided up the flowers and added green ferns to round out the colorful arrangements. Then we made the pilgrimage to the gravesites. Not everyone was in the same place. My Dad’s side of the family were spread out in several perpetual care sites. His mother was easy to find, but we always had to explore several rows to find his father.
But I felt most at peace under the evergreen trees of the maternal family plot in the old Pioneer section. In the surrounding plots, many families celebrated the memories of their departed loved ones with monuments decorated with angels, crosses, and Bible verses that held special meaning for the deceased. The gentle breeze through the trees seemed to carry whispers of voices past.
One gravesite I would like to visit someday is that of my great-great grandparents, Richard and Elizabeth Bell. They were active in a Methodist church in Wales, where he was the Sunday School superintendent. In their middle years, they departed from their native Britain in order to establish a Sunday School for the children of coal miners in central Pennsylvania. Eventually my ancestors died there, but they left a legacy.
While we honor our Fallen Heroes in the military, let us not forget those who have also given their lives while defending the Faith. Who do you need to remember?