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Have We Forgotten Our Dead?

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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.

You can see where I pushed away the dirt with my foot to expose the original resting position of the lamb.

You can see where I pushed away the dirt with my foot to expose the original resting position of the lamb.

Really?

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.

Oy.

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My All-Time Favorite Book: Safe As The Grave

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When people ask me what my favorite book or movie is, I usually can’t rank one above all the others.

With movies, it is because the movies I watch vary greatly across several genres. And also, there isn’t one movie that I am absolutely gaga over. (TV shows fit more into my obsession tastes.) Would I say Jurassic Park or Sweet Home Alabama top the list? Sure. But if you stopped by last week, you will know that I finally decided on “Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael” as my all-time favorite movie.

With books, I could easily name my two favorite series of books: The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer and The Fearless series, by Francine Pascal. Out of those series, New Moon would be my favorite Twilight book (for the heart-aching way Bella tortures herself on the flight back to the United States from Italy, soaking up all the Edward time she can, knowing (thinking) he will abandon her again upon their arrival.). #19 Twins would be my favorite Fearless book. It contains the few heavenly minutes of afterglow following Gaia and Ed having sex, before the world starts to fall in on them again.

But, my favorite stand alone book has probably been the same since 2nd grade. I am not ashamed (OK, maybe a little) to tell you that my favorite book is Safe As The Grave by Caroline B. Cooney, a Weekly Reader book, published in 1979. It was given to me by my second grade teacher, Mrs. Raines*. (A lovely woman who still recognizes me when I see her.) She picked out a different book for each student in the class. I like to think that she tried to suit them to our individual personalities. Safe As The Grave definitely has kept my interest all these years.

Safe As The Grave by Caroline B. Cooney, Weekly Reader Books, copyright 1979

Safe As The Grave by Caroline B. Cooney, Weekly Reader Books, copyright 1979

It is a mystery (I HAVE always been fond of Scooby Doo) centering around two 11 year old twin sisters, a missing bejeweled church cross, a dead ancestor, and lots of poison ivy. It is a quick read at only 48 pages.

What does it say about me that I want to be a writer, and my favorite book is only 48 pages long?

[I think it says that I like a story that is very succinct, to the point.  That is also my writing style.]

But it also has pictures! I think the pictures add to the story. I love the blue of the cover. I loved that the main character’s name is Lynn. I love that name, mostly because I always wished Lynn was my middle name. Instead, my mom had to go off and be all original (FYI–I hate my middle name. And no, I am NOT going to tell you what it is!). I think I loved reading about the sisters interactions and bickering because I was an only child. Everything I learned about twin sister relationships I learned from Safe As The Grave and Sweet Valley High books. Any time I had an imaginary family when I was a child, it would have lots of siblings.

“Lynn, who was grubby and didn’t have on matching socks…” p.15

I also loved Lynn’s curious nature. Which, I did not particularly have at that age. Her instinct was to NOT DO as she was told. But I could experience that vicariously through her.

That is what reading is all about!

I also liked that it took place in a (family) cemetery. Because my dad died before I was born, I spent more time than the average kid riding in the car through the cemetery. Probably like five times a week my mom would drive us through. I wonder now if she did that so that he would be in my life in some way. Or maybe she just missed him. Or maybe she just wished she had some backup for raising a kid all by herself. (She has always said that if my dad had lived, they would have gotten divorced anyway. Talk about crushing a small child’s impossible dreams! I told you she was negative!)

I love the morale of the story, that a young girl can solve a mystery that no one else in town has been able to solve in 100 years. It illustrates that kids can come up with original ideas that maybe adults would never thing of, because they haven’t lost the ability to tap into their full imagination, which seems to happen at puberty.

Hey, that reminds me of another movie I like which illustrates the same principle, “Radio Flyer”. Wait. Maybe it isn’t appropriate to say that a movie featuring gratuitous child abuse is one of my favorites. OK, I like everything about that movie except the child abuse. And the bullying.

* CHARMING TIDBIT ABOUT DEAR MRS. RAINES: She never fills up her gas tank before it gets to E, and usually only 20 miles after that. I learned that working at the local gas station 😉

Thank you for the book, Mrs. Raines.  I just reread it today.  And, it is so short, I could reread it again!

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