Jan's Blog Flower



Now reading . . .

"Other Colors"
by Orhan Pamuk

by Nathaniel Philbrick

"Odd Hours"
by Dean Koontz

May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day always brings back a flood of memories, beginning with the trips to the country graveyard. That is what we used to call them then. They weren’t memorial gardens or some other name designed to obscure what they really were – graveyards. Mom would gather flowers: sweet peas or irises or gladiolas and add ferns or greens and make up little bouquets. We also didn’t have perpetual care and so the family members would see to the upkeep of the graves themselves. We would pull weeds and make sure that the graves were neat. First, of course, would be the stop at Mom and Dad’s second born’s grave, our brother, Emery. We younger children never knew him. He died when he was 2 ½, probably of peritonitis. How heartbreaking for my parents. He was a little blond, blue-eyed tease. My oldest sister, Lyla, remembers how he would just put his hand on her shoulder and let it rest there until she couldn’t stand it any more. He died in the middle of harvest so my father had to work in the fields as my mother cared for her girls, a four year old and an eighteen month old and her dying boy. I wrote this description for my daughter, describing that time:

Emery developed peritonitis when he was 2 1/2 and died at home on the farm in Eastern Montana on August 28, 1924. By this time they had left the homestead and were farming the farm where I grew up.

Emery became ill and there wasn’t a doctor close by. I think Poppy and Gram (my parents) went to Glendive in the horse and buggy and sent a telegram to Minneapolis to ask if they would send a doctor but it was too late. Emery became sicker and sicker. When he was so sick he would say to Poppy “Don’t cry!”

It was harvest time and Poppy had to go out in the field and harvest. When Emery died Gram put a white flag out and called Poppy to come in. The neighbors and relatives came over and helped Gram wash and dress Emery for the funeral. One neighbor made a tiny wooden coffin for him. They put him in the icehouse to keep him until the funeral since it was the middle of the hot summer. The funeral was probably the next day. Gram used to talk about Emery but Poppy never talked about him. I think this was such a heartbreaking time for them both.

Emery, Lyla and Marlyn Nov. 1923

We would then clean up Grandma’s grave. She died in 1938. I don’t know if anyone is ever ready to lose their mother or father. I doubt that my mother was ready to lose her mother. Later on, in 1959, Grandpa was buried beside Grandma. We would visit the grave site of Aunt Bert and Uncle Jack’s twin baby girls. I think Aunt Eva’s baby boy, Chester, was buried there too. We would walk through the rows and look at the names and think about those who were buried there. The country graveyard was not a place of great sadness. It is just a few steps from the church and there was the great feeling of community. I am sure that after a funeral there must have been a meal in the basement of the church as people spoke of the one who had gone on before.

Fast forward to 1955. Mark and I were living with his sister, Dort, and her husband, Claude. Claude and Mark were either listening to or watching the Indy 500. I have never understood the attraction of the Indy 500. It must have something to do with how fast you can go without killing yourself, although sometimes that happens too. While they were thus occupied, I was having my first miscarriage. It was a hard time. Our first born would have been in his fifties and Kay would have been second from the youngest. However it never accomplishes anything to dwell on the past or what might have been.

Elisabeth Elliot quotes this poem, author unknown:

At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
That, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'

We learned this from our mother too. After the death of my father, my mother quickly stripped her bed to remake it and said, “People will be coming!” and she went on to do the next thing. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, in part, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might!”. Colossians 3:23 echoes this thought “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.”
These are good words to live by.

previous ~ home ~ next