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    Posted May 26, 2014 by
    Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    First Person: Your essays

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    “Grandma, What’s Decoration Day?”

    In the sparsely furnished kitchen, the smell of fresh coffee and buttered toast is wafting in the early morning May air.

    My grandmother, Ellie, is talking in hushed tones to my mom and aunts. She is making sure everyone knows what must be done today, on “Decoration Day”.

    “What’s Decoration Day?” I ask.

    As a little girl of 8, I had no idea what she was talking about. But I could tell from the whispers and formal tone, that this was important, something special.

    Grandma explained that today is a very important day, one where we cut fresh flowers from all our gardens, prepare bouquets, and pay our respects.

    We visit the graves of those who have gone before, those we love dearly. Some were in the military and some were not. But they all received a fresh bouquet.

    Sally, one of my aunts had a lovely garden full of peonies. They were the stars of the floral show: fiery red ones, vibrant pink ones, and soft, feminine white ones.

    Thus the bouquet creation process started. We used canning (mason) jars, jelly jars we had accumulated over the winter, whatever we could find that would hold some water. We mixed and matched the peonies with other wildflowers we could find and other plants and flowers from the garden.

    Grandma had a list of family members whose graves we would visit so we knew how many bouquets we needed.

    We carefully moved the bouquets to the cars and slowly made our way to the Horeb cemetery, where all my blood relatives were buried.

    It was not only a day of respect but a day of solemnity and sacredness.

    I watched Grandma, my mother, and aunts linger at certain graves, as if they were whispering a secret message from their hearts, perhaps something they did not ever say out loud when that person was here with us.

    We didn’t compare our Mason jar “vases” and homemade bouquets to the lavish floral arrangements others brought to the cemetery. We were lost in our own tradition of paying our respects and giving of what we had to “decorate” the family graves.

    However you’ve invested your Memorial Day Monday, I trust you have taken a few moments to remember what this holiday is all about…

    One key lesson here (there are many if you read closely): Say what is on your heart now...You may not have another opportunity.
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