Memorial Day….


For the last 55 years, I have made a late May pilgrimage to Rosedale Cemetery. Many readers will have and continue to share this experience. This annual event has much to offer beyond grave beautification if we are open to it.

I started my Memorial Day contributions primarily as a sherpa.

I lugged the plants, shovel, fertilizer, and watering can. I was in the service of my maternal grandfather, Leo Chane. As we planted, I heard the stories I hadn’t heard since the previous year: who lived where, who was who, who was nice, who was not, and whom he missed most. Those are among the most precious memories that I have of him. It was “our” thing.

I know he wasn’t grooming me for the job. “You surely have something else you’d rather do on this nice May afternoon,” he would always say. “In fact,” I would reply, “this is exactly what I want to do, and you are exactly who I want to be with.” Complete truth.

The event had the same components every year. I have had a green thumb since childhood, and my poor Leo did not. He was guaranteed to crush the delicate roots in his effort to “get them nice and snug in the soil.” I took over the planting as the years went along to save him from a painful descent onto his arthritic knees…and to save the plants.

So many of us suffer with “Did we really appreciate what we had when we had it?” In truth, we can probably always do better with this. I know I could have. But I did. I knew that this very busy man’s schedule did not have many carve-out moments for just the two of us and that this annual trek was very special indeed.

I’ll be headed to Rosedale and a couple more this weekend, hopefully with at least one of my daughters. We will likely have the same conversations we have every year. I will step into the comforting pool of memories surrounded by what was and what remains inside me.

In the 40-plus years of my nursing career, I have seen that the mundane is where the extraordinary lives.

You can miss it if you aren’t paying attention. All the car rides, with the kids in the backseat, become all -the -more precious as time moves toward independence. Toddler bath time, what’s better?

Most of the patients I have cared for in that timeframe have wanted “a regular day.” They don’t talk about the French Riviera or a Viking River Cruise; they want a cup of coffee on their porch. They want to feel the sun on their skin and monitor the bird feeder for regulars and visitors. There it is again, the extraordinary hiding in plain sight. In the mundane.

We may need a reminder. Perhaps we need to have more awareness that the moments we have together that don’t necessarily feel special are indeed that. I’m not sure that Leo created that magical time we had together. I think I so wanted time alone with him that I “tagged along,” going from little kid helper to driver, digger, planter, and outing organizer.

How do we create these opportunities where the magic can manifest?

In our world, where our systems and technology are supposed to free us up, we seem busier and more over-scheduled than ever. Carve out the time, set it aside, and see it for what it is… Sacred.

On the heels of Mother’s Day and weeks ahead of Father’s Day, most of us want one thing: more time. One more dinner. One more story of Mr. Brown selling “Orange Pineappila” out of his ice cream wagon. One more laugh, one more hug. One more game of cards, one more trip to plant flowers at the family plots.

It’s true that “going back” can hurt. Our loss can rise, collect others along the way, and present us with what feels like a crushing blow. And we “ride the wave” of that pain to get to the good stuff over the crest. We remember who loved us, who they were, how they paved the way for us, and how we loved them and still do. We access gratitude for the way our lives were impacted and enhanced by these giants.

If you have “cemetery duty” this year, and even if you don’t, consider a tender trip down memory lane.

You may need a companion to pull this off. Maybe your children or grands want to come along. However you create your memory ritual, cemetery or not, it can be a lifelong point of connection for those who will be here after we are not. You are creating a place of comfort, a dear sweet place of bonding and belonging. I hold these dear.

I remember only a few times (probably during teen angst) when I might have been persuaded to do something else on those May Saturdays. I am eternally grateful that I stayed the course and held our annual pilgrimage as a priority. I am the beneficiary.

I can still hear his voice telling me to “really push down hard on those roots to get them nice and deep.” I will, don’t worry (as I gently put tender pressure around the delicate roots).

Thank you, my dearest Leo, for this gift that keeps on giving.  I’ll be at Rosedale soon. Look for me there.

calendars, national mall, rosedale cemetery, leo chane, protected areas of the united states, washington, d.c., m-55, interstate 355, memorial day, brown