family · Holidays · My Thoughts

Memorial Day or Decoration Day?

            As a child, we went to the cemetery in Des Moines, New Mexico and met my Mom’s parents on Decoration Day many times. The adults decorated the graves of family members, and we raced around dodging headstones and graves playing with friends. Many families brought picnic lunches and this allowed more play time for the children and more visiting time for the adults. This trip to a familiar cemetery meant the beginning of summer because school was over, and we headed to Amarillo, Texas to spend a week with my grandparents.

            Fast forward to my adult life. I watched my Mom and Dad religiously decorate family graves in Trinidad, Colorado and back to Des Moines. It was a family tradition, and their commitment to caring for deceased family members and their graves spoke deeply to me.

            When my Mom died six years ago, my cousin said she’d take care of the graves in Des Moines and I would do the ones in Trinidad, so faithfully I followed my family’s tradition for the last five years. I decorated my parents’ grave, my grandparents’ grave, and my Aunt’s all in Trinidad. I also decorated my sister-in-law’s in the beautiful quaint cemetery outside of my hometown of Branson, Colorado.

            This year I failed. I have been sick for the last three months and haven’t visited Colorado yet to decorate the graves. I will, but it will be late. This made me think about this tradition, its importance and the history behind it.

            What is Memorial Day anyway?

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

This is what I remember as Decoration Day! But it changed.

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2019 occurs on Monday, May 27. 

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

            I celebrate both of these commemorations: my family and friends that have passed and anyone in the military who has given their life so we can keep our democracy safe and sound.

Some of the soldiers I have known who have passed:

  • Uncle Tanky Doherty
  • Marshall Flippo
  • Leroy Ellis
  • Excel Smith
  • Donald Berg
  • Fred Buhr
Mom and Dad’s Headstone

Those major family and friends I have lost over my 65 years:

  • Harold and Elva Horner – Dad and Mom
  • Laurence and Pearle Horner – paternal grandparents
  • Virgil and Tresia Dickerson – maternal grandparents
  • Hughie and Willa Urbanoski – Uncle and Aunt
  • Gay and Helen Waldroup – Uncle and Aunt
  • Fred Horner – Half-brother
  • Jason Talley – nephew
  • Reu and Helen Waldroup – parents’ best friends
  • Millard Warner – Dad’s best friend
  • Millie Sheldon – childhood babysitter
  • Kathi Raver – best girlfriend in the square dance world
  • Lela Kaye Horner – sister-in-law
  • Candy Vargas – lifelong best friend
  • Gene and Carol Champion – square dance friends
  • Joel Walton – Square Dance Friend

Whew! That’s a lot of losses! I just heard today if you grieve many losses, that means you’ve loved a lot! What a comforting thought!

How do you celebrate Decoration Day/Memorial Day? What are your traditions? Make it more than just another day off. How can you make it memorable? Please share your ideas in the Comments!


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