Decoration Day was a special holiday for my widowed mom and me. (Left-photo of my now deceased mom and me.) We always made the trip to Salt Lake City to decorate the grave of my father who had died in a tragic airplane crash in Milford, Utah when I was five years old. He was laid to rest in the same cemetery as other family members. Every year without fail, we would meet together at the cemetery with extended family members: aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents at 10 am to put flowers on our family graves, to remember their lives and to honor them.
It was like a big family reunion. Everyone came each year. We brought folding chairs, sat around the headstones, and visited afterwards. Now many of those relatives who came to decorate are buried in that same cemetery. Some years we would visit other ancestral family graves in nearby cemeteries. It was a way to acknowledge that we were family.
Today this holiday is called “Memorial Day.” It is still a day to decorate the graves of our dead, and to remember the sacrifices of those brave veterans who willingly gave their lives to preserve the freedom of our nation and other countries. Unfortunately, the tradition of gathering all the family together on Memorial Day is almost lost with our modern families that are so spread out across the country. It isn’t possible for them to travel back to their childhood homes to decorate graves. In the process, we’ve lost some important family connections and traditions.
Traditions are the glue that kept families together. Practices that I as a child could always count on were Decoration Day, returning to Utah for the deer hunt, and celebrating other special occasions: wedding, funerals, new babies, etc. together as a family no matter the distance to be traveled.
My favorite family tradition was returning every summer to Milford to see my grandparents. We would have a fun canyon cookout in the Beaver mountains complete with deer steaks, fried potatoes, and hot scones made by Grandma and cooked over the campfire by Grandpa, then finally homemade ice cream and cookies for dessert. What a treat being together with great food, and lots of love in the great outdoors with my family. What more could one ask for? I knew that I was special, and part of a larger family which included many generations both living and dead. (Above-photo of my now deceased grandparents and me.)