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My Second Memorial Day Without My Husband

Memorial Day means different things to different people. For most people it’s just the kick off to summer and a long weekend for having family fun or for working on an outdoor project. For some, it’s all about honoring our fallen military men and women. Still others use the weekend to decorate at the cemetery, a tradition dating back to shortly after the Civil War when families would gather to clean up the grave yards at the end of spring. In the realm of useless information cluttering up my brain is the fact that Civil War era families would take a break from their cleaning to spread blankets on the grass and have a potluck lunch among the ghosts of their ancestors which in turn gave birth to the custom of families getting together over the holiday. Then, in more recent times when the government turned it into a three day weekend…well, forget the cemetery---we can swing by after work---and save the three day holiday a mini vacation. We all accept that evolution until we’ve had a recent loss, then we wish the whole world to hit the pause button to remember the dead and the families they left behind.


This year Memorial Day is bringing me a sense of restlessness and mixed emotions. Last year it was all about making sure Don's tombstone was set in place and how disappointed I was with the unseeded ground around the marble. Sand filled up the etched letters and there was no hope for keeping the stone clean with the way the sod was left high on one side. A week ago I stopped by the cemetery and found those issues are no longer a problem. So now what? The cemetery has a lot of restrictions on what you can and can’t put on graves but people break the rules all the time, and then they fight with the sexton when he removes their decorative flags, solar lights and wind chimes that fall over and get tangled up in their mowing machines. When I was checking the place last week I ran into another widow whose husband’s grave is near Don’s and she was trying to rally up support to get the sexton fired. She lives within walking distance, checks on the cemetery often and says she's been raising cane since her husband was buried six years go. I don’t want to be that kind of widow. To me, it’s easier to learn the rules and follow them.
I worked in the floral industry for twenty years and made my fair share of Memorial Day flowers over the years. I had planned to make something for Don’s grave until I broke my elbow and acquired an arm sling. As a Plan B I stopped by a place that sells cemetery flowers but their arrangements weren’t weighed and would blow away with the first strong wind, so I left without buying anything. The evil side of me thinks it would be fun to fill up the etched letters on Don’s tombstone with birdseed so that when the militant widow mentioned above sees birds all over my husband’s grave she’d call the city offices to demand the sexton buy a shot gun. Did I mention she’s also a militant, foaming-at-the-mouth NRA member as well? I know she’d call me in horror if Don’s grave became a Mecca for birds. She called me when the Snoopy I'd glued to the stone disappeared. But I’d act overjoyed about the birds and tell her, “Holy moly, Don’s spirit is communicating with the gods, using the birds to carry his message to the sky!” Okay, I wouldn’t really do that but I was tempted to use that for my Plan C.
Aside from what to do about the cemetery what is bothering me the most about this second Memorial Day without Don is how lonely it’s making me feel. I hear the plans that family and friends have for the long weekend and while I’m genuinely happy for them, I’m a bit envious as well. In the past I’d always had plans to look forward to over the holiday. I can't remember ever not having some where to go over Memorial Day, not even as a kid. Poor me, I can’t even satisfactorily pig out on comfort foods because with my broken elbow bone and sprained wrist on my dominate arm it’s a struggle to shovel food in my mouth. To make it worse I’m sitting here watching a doomsday movie---nothing like making a misery pie for your self when you should be closing the kitchen and going for a walk in the sunshine. I mean who wouldn’t feel miserable at the thought the world is coming to an end and I don’t have a survivalist’s cache of supplies hidden in a backyard bunker? I’ll bet the militant widow with the NRA patches on her jacket has a well stocked bunker. Woo is me. I can’t wait until Memorial Day, year two is past history!
But I must say I’m starting to understand why recent widows feel the pull to go to the cemetery on Memorial Day---I never understood that before Don passed. In part, I think it's because we don’t have any where else to go and if we’re lucky we’ll get to meet the families of our spouse’s neighbors. Yup, my husband is across the road, four stones in. Where is yours? I brought a peanut butter sandwich. Would you like half? Maybe if I make friends at the cemetery this year, next year we could plan a potluck on the grounds like the Civil War widows did. Everything comes full circle if you wait long enough. ©
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Comment by Blue Snow on May 30, 2013 at 4:26am

Thanks, ladies, for the comments. As it turned out we had heavy rain on Memorial Day so I doubt anyone made it to the cemetery. I will swing by there after the farmer's market this weekend. I'm still feeling really restless and I'm not sure it's wise to trust myself in a crowd like at the market. I might just give into the impulse to shout out: "Won't someone be my friend?!" Being so alone in the world is the worse part of widowhood for me at 16 months out. I'm lonely even in a crowd.

Comment by North54 on May 29, 2013 at 6:20pm

Sorry about your broken elbow and hope you are on the mend now.  Although we don't have memorial day  in Canada I can relate to that feeling of loneliness on certain holiday weekends.  Think it just once again reinforces we are alone whether we have been invited to join in with other people or not, it just brings it home again.  (((Blue))) I enjoy your blogs so much and once again that great sense of humour you have comes through.  You always make me chuckle. 



Comment by only1sue on May 29, 2013 at 5:46pm

Yes, indeed, I hate long weekends.  It is family time.  My three families are busy.  I hate the phone call that says:  "Today was so much fun!" Hey, next time drop by and take a poor old widow with you maybe?

I am not one to go to the cemetery and so far haven't the energy to do the headstone for Mum or for Ray but I guess that will happen with in the year.  In some parts of Europe families still go the cemetery and tidy up on All Saint's Day, the day after Halloween.  That is their special day to make sure all is secure before the winter starts.

Here there is no special day for families to go to the cemetery, I guess some veterans families might go on Anzac Day (April 25th).  I go sometimes just in passing, wheel around and go in, look at the graves, say my prayers, shed a tear.  It is still close for me to both deaths so I guess once I get stronger emotionally I will be able to handle it better.

Comment by AEDforever (Ali) on May 29, 2013 at 4:18pm

((Blue))  I was scheduled to go to the cemetery on Memorial Day to help place the flags (Paul did not die in service but had served in the Marines).  I couldn't go for a very good reason, and then I felt so guilty.  And yes, the parties and bbq's...well it does make me envious even tho Paul and I wouldn't have had one, we would have enjoyed being at home with each other for 3 days.  It is what it is...and I just keep trying to move forward one step at a time. 

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