This is an opinion column.
I have a chore the first week of May each year that I am blessed to do even though it fills me with moments of sorrow and sadness. Purchasing flowers for the graves of my ancestors who have gone on before me is a ritual I was taught as a child and it is a custom I still cherish. It’s my way of honoring the men and women who taught me so much about life and gave me unconditional love and support.
Each year, the parking lot at the flower store is always packed when I drive up. Every time I walk inside the old, concrete building it never fails to hit me hard that I am surrounded by others who have also lost a loved one…a father, a mother…a child. We are all in the same boat together…desperately searching for the perfect memorial for our loved one.
Decoration Day is a southern tradition that most folks around here celebrate. It’s a time to show respect for our ancestors and to reminisce about days gone by. Every cemetery has its’ own tribute day on the Sundays in the month of May and by the last day of the month, every graveyard in the South is blooming and bursting with color.
While I would love to buy arrangements for all my family members, it would be near impossible. I have hundreds of cousins, aunts and uncles who are buried across three counties and some even in other states. I come from a very large family…my mom and dad each had 11 brothers and sisters and they all have passed away except my Uncle Arnie down in Luverne, Alabama. A lot of my cousins are no longer with us as well.
So, every year I have to be selective on my purchases. My first item on the agenda was the spray for my parents. They are buried together, so I bought a “saddle” that fits on top of their monument. This year, I chose a beautiful orange and white arrangement…it is sitting in my guest bedroom because decoration at the Memory Hill Cemetery in Albertville isn’t until the third Sunday of the month.
My next purchase was an arrangement for my sister, Brenda. She has only been gone three years, but it seems like an eternity without her. She loved yellow roses with a passion, so I chose a white plastic pot filled with her favorite. Brenda is buried at Liberty Cemetery at Painter and their decoration day was last Sunday, so my first stop of the day last weekend was to place the flowers beside her monument. It’s still hard to see her name inscribed on that cold stone.
I stayed for there for a while…letting my memories keep me company. A few tears and smiles later, I held my Williams chin up and said good-bye once again to my sister who taught me to stand tall and keep going…no matter what.
My Williams’ grandparents final resting place is also at Liberty….they are higher up on the hill from Brenda. Their single tombstones are small and faded…they have been gone a long time. Grandma Williams died when I was just a young child and Grandpa Williams died all the way back in the 1940s...long before I was born.
While I was at Painter, I also placed a few flowers in the side vases on my Uncle Robert and Aunt Bea’s monument as well as some on their children and grandson’s graves. That entire family has passed on, so I feel obligated to put a little something on theirs each year since there is no one else left to do it.
Grandpa and Grandma Morrow are buried at Rice Cemetery just past Arab…their decoration day is the first Saturday of May every year. I bought flowers for them and will take them out there this coming weekend. I will also put a small bouquet of wildflowers on Uncle Raymond’s grave out there...he was always my favorite.
I hope my own children continue this custom after I am gone…my daughter says she will. I told her to just make sure and put a little something on her Mamaw and Poppa’s grave along with some yellow roses for her Aunt Brenda. Hopefully, Katie will pick out a small arrangement for me… I don’t care what color the flowers are…just as long as she stops by for a visit.