The cemetery where my father is buried is not so different from thousands of others in the midwest. Family and friends drive slowly along thin gravel paths watching for the sentinel stones preceding their plot, their person. Whatever the weather the day of the visit, there’s always recollection of the way the skies looked or wind blew or ground felt underfoot when final goodbyes were said and the going forward began.
Southlawn cemetery in Seymour, Iowa, seemed particularly beautiful this Memorial Day weekend, the rolling grass green and the colonnade of U.S. flags snapping to attention. Scores of smaller ones marked veterans’ graves, including those of Carl Thompson and Earl Monteith, the sites where I stood. Sometime, today, taps will be played, I feel certain, and my throat fills as I hear the echo of a military salute sounded years ago.
But there was a joy in this year’s visit I hadn’t felt before, as I read the names of so many people whose living made my life better. Miss Banning, with her signature “Be that as it may…” and librarian sense. Mrs. Mincks, who fixed after-prom breakfast for a table full of teens. The Maddalozzo brothers who drove the yellow school buses connecting small towns to slightly larger ones for ball games and marching band competitions. Grandparents and parents of friends. High school and Sunday school teachers. Everyday folk who taught by example and took the time to make my generation know we were valued in our community.
It’s those people I honor this Memorial Day. For their caring continues in each of us.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~John F. Kennedy