This is an opinion column.
I having a chore the first week of May every year that I am lucky enough to do even though it fills me with moments of heartache and sadness. Buying flowers for the graves of my ancestors who preceded me is a ritual I learned as a child and it’s a custom I still cherish. It’s my way of honoring the men and women who have taught me so much about life and who have given me their unconditional love and support.
Every year, the flower shop parking lot is always crowded when I get in the car. Every time I walk inside the old concrete building, I am always struck by the fact that I am surrounded by others who have also lost a loved one…a father, a mother…a child. We’re all in this together…the desperate search for the perfect memorial for our loved one.
Decorating Day is a southern tradition that most people celebrate here. It’s a time to show respect for our ancestors and remember the days gone by. Each cemetery has its own day of homage on Sundays in May, and on the last day of the month, each cemetery in the South blooms and bursts with color.
Although I would love to buy arrangements for all my family members, it would be next to impossible. I have hundreds of cousins, aunts and uncles who are buried in three counties and some even in other states. I come from a very large family…my mom and dad each had 11 siblings and they all passed away except my uncle Arnie in Luverne, Alabama. Many of my cousins are no longer with us either.
So every year I have to be selective about my purchases. My first item on the agenda was the spray for my parents. They are buried together, so I bought a “saddle” that fits on top of their monument. This year I chose a beautiful orange and white arrangement…it sits in my guest room as the decoration at Memory Hill Cemetery in Albertville is only the third Sunday of the month.
My next purchase was an arrangement for my sister, Brenda. She’s only been gone three years, but it feels like an eternity without her. She adored yellow roses with a passion, so I chose a white plastic pot filled with her favorite. Brenda is buried at Liberty Cemetery at Painter and their decorating day was last Sunday, so my first step of the day last weekend was to place the flowers next to her monument. It is still difficult to see his name inscribed on this cold stone.
I stayed there for a while… letting my memories keep me company. A few tears and smiles later, I lifted my Williams chin and once again said goodbye to my sister who taught me to stand up and carry on…no matter what.
The final resting place of my Williams grandparents is also at Liberty….they are further up the hill from Brenda. Their unique tombstones are small and faded…they are long gone. Grandmother Williams died when I was a young child and Grandfather Williams died in the 1940s…long before I was born.
While at Painter’s I also placed some flowers in the side vases on my Uncle Robert and Aunt Bea’s monument as well as the graves of their children and grandsons. This whole family is dead, so I feel compelled to put a little something on theirs every year since there’s no one else left to do it.
Grandpa and Grandma Morrow are buried in Rice Cemetery right after Arab…their Decorating Day is the first Saturday in May each year. I bought flowers for them and will take them there next weekend. I’ll also put a small bouquet of wildflowers on Uncle Raymond’s grave there…he’s always been my favorite.
I hope my own children will continue this custom after I leave…my daughter says she will. I told him to make sure and put a little something on his Mamaw and Poppa’s grave with yellow roses for his Aunt Brenda. Hopefully Katie will choose a little arrangement for me… I don’t care what color the flowers are… as long as she stops by for a visit.