My mom, my son M, and I visited three cemeteries the Monday prior to Memorial Day, to decorate family members graves with flowers. Two of the three cemeteries was very unsatisfactory.
The first one, St. Joseph’s Catholic cemetery in Adrian, Michigan, had their drive blocked with orange construction cones. It seemed they had decided that a week before Memorial Day was the optimal time to put fresh tar in the cracks of the paved drive.
Really? How does that make sense? To block people out of the cemetery at the one time of year when they are guaranteed to want to visit?!
As I didn’t want to get fresh tar on my car (the hail damage is enough to give it character), my mom and I made alternate arrangements to come back on Wednesday. Surely it would be open again by then, right?
Next we visited Pleasant View cemetery in Blissfield, Michigan, where my dad is buried. There was no sign of the flags that they always put on the graves of veterans. The place had not even been mowed. There were branches and stray bits of liter everywhere.
My mom is very particular about millions of things in this world. Most of which I DO NOT and WILL NOT ever understand. But on one thing I do agree with her, and that is that you should place your flowers at the cemetery after they have mowed. Otherwise, your artificial flowers get dirt and grass thrown all up in them and look terrible. But, having no other options, we placed our flowers at that time. Next to my dad’s tombstone is a concrete marker in the shape of a lamb for his sister, who was born and died before he was ever born. It probably isn’t made out of very quality materials to begin with, and it has been there approaching 100 years. But we could plainly see where the riding lawn mower clips it when it goes between the stones.
These stones are the only thing left to mark these people’s lives (in this instance, of a deceased baby who never even got to live her life), and you have to carelessly push them over on their foundations?
When my mom and I returned to the St. Joseph’s Catholic cemetery on Wednesday, we witnessed the same thing. The place had not yet been mowed. The tombstones on the ends had been moved on their foundations, from previous passes with the mower. I tried to push one back into position, unsuccessfully, and almost gave myself a hernia.
Oh, and FYI, there were STILL cones blocking the entrance to St. Joseph’s. It appeared as if they had seal-coated the drive as well. I drove around the cones. (It had already rained the night before. Any of the coating that was going to come off would have already been washed off.)
Aside from the shotty groundskeeping, I also noticed that WE, as surviving family members as a whole, are not decorating. The entire section my dad is located in was almost devoid of flowers. Everyone in his section generally died in 1980 or before.
Now, looking across the cemetery to the newer section, it did appear to be very decorated. I guess all the people in the ground in the new section are the ones who used to decorate the tombstones in the old section.
How sad is that?
Even sadder is that they never told their children that someone had to keep decorating the grandmas’ and grandpas’ when they themselves had moved on.
Decorating gravestones is very similar to how I feel about sending greeting cards. I know that it is an extra expense, but we lose a little of our humanity when we decide it is not worth our time and bother anymore. A website exists called Find-A-Grave. It is a great resource for genealogists. But, you can also leave “virutal flowers” for people. I have an issue with the “social media-ization” of the dead.
Sadly, I think we have. And worse, I think we did it intentionally. I can’t exactly say how but I think it’s related to the same thing that makes us put our children in institutions where they only ever interact with other children of exactly the same age (and usually social class). Then we put our old people in “special care facilities” with other old people. Everything is very segregated. I think this creates a disconnect from the cycle of life. Like I said, I can’t quite put my finger on it. I lack the right words, but I think it’s related and I think it’s very unhealthy.
So, does that mean you want to return to the days when people had their own family graveyards in the back corner of their family farms?
Anywhere that money can be made, it is. We have been taught that that is the Americnan way. There is a lot of money to be made in the funeral industry.