Tag Archives: Memorial Day

A Year of Gratitude End of May +++

I missed writing my prompt for our year of gratitude last week. I was attending the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis and posted two blogs, and had planned a third. Obviously not done! So I have a whole lot of gratitude, many random thoughts and a few things I want to share.

The Festival, as always was inspiritational and filled my “cup” both spiritually and intellectually. I am deeply grateful for all those who make this event possible every year. This was my fifth time to attend, and I have never been disappointed. The theme was “Preaching as Moral Imagination.” You can find my thoughts from the first couple of days here and here. The preachers were wonderful and challenging.

Some quotes that I continue to ponder from Anna Carter Florence:

(When speaking of Zaccheaus) “What Zaccheaus wanted was an unobstructed view of Jesus and what he got was an unobstructed view of Jesus in his life.”

As preachers, like Zaccheaus we need to learn to climb trees, “to try and see Jesus in the text, in the people, in the world, in each other, in the hard covnersation and in the meetings.”

So I am thankful for time away, for time to worship and learn and reconnect to the art and practice of preaching.

This week I am grateful for the clergy and laity that met at the Church of Resurrection to ponder and consider a way forward in the United Methodist Church. What’s next? UMC Next gathered people from every annual conference in the United States to pray, to have conversation and begin to discern a way forwawrd that would truly be open and inclusive for all. You can find the details of their meeting and their commitments here

I am deeply thankful for all those who gathered together and did the hard work to move the United Methodist Church in the United States in a new direction. I am personally committed to doing whatever I can to be part of this new direction.

This weekend is Memorial Day and I will give thanks for all those who have gone before me. I will decorate the graves of those I loved, and tell stories and laugh and maybe even shed or two.

What will you being thanks for in the next few days? What groups, or institutions or people are you grateful for their leadership and their commitment and their vision?

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Memorial Day thoughts

My sister and I visit the cemeteries each year on Memorial Day Weekend. Well, not the weekend, but on Monday. We do this because everyone who decorated the graves before us are all gone. This tradition has become more deeply meaningful for both of us. We do not just visit my mother and stepfathers grave and my grandparents graves, we have begun to visit my great grandparents graves and other extended family members that no one remembers or perhaps other relatives live too far away. I wrote about this tradition two years in a blog I called Remembering.

I have seen some news articles and some social media posts about how people have forgotten the “real” meaning of Memorial day and have been saying things like “Happy Memorial Day!” I also know that while for some people the main purpose of Memorial Day is to remember the service men and women who have died in wars across our countries history, that is not the only meaning for this day. As I said in my former post, some of us were raised that this was a weekend to remember those who have gone before us. It is a time to decorate graves and tell stories and also in my family tradition, to have cookouts and family time.

I don’t think any of those things are unimportant or wrong. I took American flags to both my stepfather’s grave and my grandfather’s mausoleum. I had a wonderful party on Sunday evening. In worship on Sunday morning at First, we focused on memorial and legacy gifts and Ascension Sunday.

 I am sitting here on Monday evening, experiencing a “good” tired feeling. It has been a full three days. I have celebrated a neighbors birthday, worshipped on Sunday, had 40+ people over for a wonderful evening and then visited four different cemeteries. I also made hospital calls and been grateful for so many things. 

My sister and I have decided to remember those family members that no one else seems to remember. Mostly it is unmarried or married without children couples and babies and small children. We even placed pinwheels and flowers on the graves of some small children who were not related. 

Our great grandparents were visited 

My great grandmother held Tammy and I as infants before she died. We visited our favorite great aunt (she was awesome and fun)

Then we headed to Great Plain and visited Aunt Leola (who was not our favorite and liked to pinch us hard!) and even though there is no gravestone, we visited baby Stella, who died at two.

Then just a little ways away, we visited baby Clyde McClure. If I remember my family history, his mom ( my grandmother’s sisters) HAD to get married and this little baby did not live. His parents are buried elsewhere, but we remember him today.

Finally at the Calvary cemetery we visited Maudie. I have visited this grave since I was a little girl. At one point, there were still decorating it, but that has been a very long time. This little lamb stone speaks of the love the family had for this precious child:

The little poem at the end says “Sweet Maudie unto earth,  a little while was given. She plumed her wins for flight, and soared away to heaven.”

Finally beginning last year, we sought out a very small cemetery that my grandparents visited only once. It was part of my grandfather’s German Lutheran heritage.
 What we both remembered was one small baby grave that had only the last name Wiske , but no first name. Last year we went searching for Baby Wiske and we found the grave, but had to pull back the grass to see the name. It happened again, we had to pull back the grass. 

But while there we remember Remick’s, remembering family reunions of long ago and  decorated the grave of my grandfather’s brother and wife.

Finally we visited a marker in a Wichita cemetery remembering my mother. We had visited her grave and my stepfather’s grave in Garden Plain

She had married again late in life and had just a few short years which were a gift for both her and her husband Jerry.

Here is what I believe, we only have a short time to love nad laught and share. Whatever the number of hours or days or years, each moment matters. I know sometimes that it is uncomfortable for folks when people don’t “remember” or “memorialize” in a preferred method. I think having dinners, going to the lake, making memories is not bad or sinful or wrong. I also think mourning and remembering and honoring is not bad either. 

I find the moments I take to walk cemeteries and “recount the tales” and wonder about the stories I don’t know to be sacred and holy. I also find hosting family and friends for a party is also sacred and holy. Time is a gift and choosing to spend part of it with those we love is precious.

So tonight, I am grateful, for family, for friends, for memories and for time enough to pay attention.


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When I was little and living with my grandparents, Memorial Day was a time to go and “decorate” the graves of family. In fact, my grandmother often called it “Decoration Day.”  I didn’t know the focus was on those who had served and died. My grandfather was a World War I veteran and Memorial Day was a day to remember family, not the war he served or any wars.  I am not sure why, my grandfather was a very patriotic man, but perhaps the horror of his experience was not something he wanted to revisit.

We took the pilgrimage to Garden Plain, Kansas to the Calvary Cemetery (the old records call it the Calvary Methodist Cemetery) which is directly south of the Saint Anthony Cemetery. The two cemeteries are actually on the same plot of land which when I was young was divided by a fence. The land was deeded for the cemeteries to Garden Plain by my great-grandfather Wiley Doyle. So each Memorial Day we would go to the Calvary Methodist Cemetery and brought plastic, yes, plastic flowers for my great grandparents, baby Stella (my grandmother’s sister who died at the age of 2) and couple of brothers.  Later, another sister, Leola would be added to the line of family members.

We went, taking the same plastic flowers each year, and then we would wander around. My grandparents would talk about the “people” buried there. Shared stories, and my sister and I would always end up near a small tombstone with a lamb on the top. My grandmother would explain the little girl died very young. I didn’t get a picture this year…the rain has been non-stop, but unlike Stella, she had a tombstone.  It looks something like this one.


When my stepfather was buried in that cemetery, each time I went, I visited. When my mother was buried there a year and a half ago, a stroll over to visit that little girl, whose name I can not read, was made. When my sister Tammy and I went to take flowers, we left a small bunch for her.  I am not sure anyone visits anymore. We also left a pin wheel for baby sister Stella who has no gravestone, and probably will not be remembered once Tammy and I no longer visit.

We also visited my grandparents in their mausoleum in a Wichita cemetery.  I am not overly fond of mausoleums, but that is what they wanted. So we went and remembered them as well. Finally in that same cemetery we went and found the graves of my great grandparents on my grandfather’s side, his sister and her husband. I am pretty sure no one had been there for a couple of decades. My great aunt had no children, my great grandfather had died in 1906 and my great grandmother in 1959.  My great aunt Emma is the one who decorated my great grand parents graves and she has been gone for more than two decades.

So why go? I didn’t know them, I didn’t know Aunt Emma’s husband and I hadn’t gone before. Last year, I mentioned to my sister that Big Bob’s (my grandfather) parents were buried there and his sister. We decided to go this year. We didn’t know it would be rainy, but we found the graves, put some flowers on their graves and some other “relatives” we found and came home.

Who remembers? Who tells the tales? Who visits and decorates and gives thanks? Probably after my sister and I are gone, no one will remember or visit or tell the tales. No one will leave a few flowers for an unmarked grave for baby Stella or at a lamb tombstone. Why go?

In my scattered life I want to know that relationships matter. Even those relationships that are no longer “living” but continue in memory are important. Perhaps the rituals are not so important now that families live so far apart and there are many alternatives to “graves”.  And yet, for me, the sacramental gift of visiting reminds that life is a gift. No one lives forever and each day offers promises and possibilities to be explored, enjoyed and pursued.  The time will come when those opportunities will be long gone.

I am grateful for those whose lives have touched mine. I am grateful for ancestors never met, but remembered because of love and laughter. This Memorial Day weekend, I have remembered, cried a bit, laughed alot and given thanks.

For the remembering and for the gift of Life and I am grateful and graced to serve.

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