Decoration Day: A dying tradition?


EAGLEVILLE, Tenn. (WHNT) – This time of year, people across the south come together to put new flowers on the graves of loved ones. But some fear the tradition won’t last forever.

Almost heaven, but the back roads I’ve been driving lately are in Tennessee. And they take me home a few times a year.

Eagleville is a small town about 25 miles from where I grew up in South Nashville. 943 people live there now. There is still only one traffic light in town.

The landscape has changed over the past 60 years. One thing was not, the memories I grew of going every weekend to my grandparents’ little piece of God’s green earth in the countryside.

This is where they grew up and now rest, in a cemetery just down the road from where they lived. And on the first Sunday in May, I make the annual trip to visit the graves of my ancestors.

A cousin of mine, Elizabeth Edmondson, has been involved in Decorating Day since she was a little girl. “It’s been the first Sunday in May for years,” she told me.

Norma Johnsey lives in Eagleville. “It’s just a moment to remember where you come from and your roots, just to honor the people who came before you and who are responsible for keeping you here,” she said.

It is a day we come together from across the country to remember. “My husband was buried here, my mother, my father and my grandparents,” Elizabeth told me, “It really means a lot.”

Another Eagleville resident, William L. King, said, “It’s to honor those who are here and I hope I’ll be put here too.” He’s laughing.

With covid in the rearview mirror, more people were able to attend this year. Robert Bradley, Jr. of Nashville remarked, saying, “There’s more this year than there has been in quite a while.”

Every year we have a business meeting and pass the hat to pay someone to take care of the cemetery for the following year. And we end with prayer.

With his head bowed, my twin brother Terry prayed, “Lord, we just thank you for the time we can spend here today to honor those who have gone before us.

Decorating Day is a social event. “Everyone gets together and meets family members that you don’t see very often,” Norma said.

It’s a chance for cousins ​​to catch up on life and talk about classic cars. “And it’s Grandpa’s old ’57 Chevy,” Terry said, showing a picture on his phone to our cousin Kenny Edmonson.

Others talk about their time in the military. “We trade war stories,” William said with a chuckle. Norma added, “I think it’s more of a southern thing and when you talk about decorating people go, a what?” She laughed.

Those of us who are now older wonder if future generations will continue the tradition. “I think about it sometimes too, you know,” Elizabeth told me. Norma added, “I think people are losing those old traditions, but hopefully here it will stay for a long time.”

We hope we will not be forgotten. “I hope someone will come to visit me on the first Sunday in May, added Norma.

Some believe that Decorating Day began in the late 1800s and later became Memorial Day that honors the men and women who gave their lives for our country.


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