Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day and Patsy Cline


I think I have disliked this day most of my life. For me it was never about the fallen soldiers, although we always honored them. No, the dislike started the year after my mother died. Or maybe it was the same year, now that I think of it. My dad dressed me up in my very best dress. It was all white and lacy and had ribbons that ran down the side. I remember overhearing him say it cost $50, a princely sum when he only made $1.25 per hour. It's old and musty now, discolored. But it remains packed in a box.  I have, on numerous occasions, tried to get rid of it. But for some reason I still have it. My tiny little brother also dressed in his finest, as we visited the site where my mother was laid to rest after a viscous battle with breast cancer. She was 27 years old, and she left behind a husband, a daughter, six, and a six-month-old baby boy.

Every year my dad would take us up to the cemetery to lay flowers in honor of my mother. Like I ever needed a special day to remember her. She was in my mind every day of my childhood. It always ended the same. I would cry, and my dad would feel helpless, my brother confused. 

They met my chance. My mother, from Stockton, California was visiting her parents, who for some reason, moved to Gerlach, Nevada to open a restaurant. It was my dad's hometown. Full of his big family, and life-long friends. My dad, home on leave, became the love of her life. She immediately moved to Gerlach and began a campaign to win him over, starting with his mother. By the time he was discharged, the web was complete. The dye had been cast. The handsome cowboy would be single no longer. I was born on their first anniversary.

So today I am supposed to go up to the cemetery where four generations lay in rest, close by each other. In some ways it's comforting, knowing they're all together. 

But I just don't see my parents there. I never have. I see them dancing cheek to cheek. They're young, beautiful, and healthy. A song by Patsy Cline is playing in the the background. Their parents are sitting at Bruno's Bar laughing. All the cousins and siblings are there too. My brother and I are chewing on jerky and sipping shirley temples. 

Life is good.

44 comments:

Linda Pendleton said...

Gosh, she was so young, you were so young. Cemetaries are for us, I suppose. I have only been to my Dad's grave once. My husband was cremated and his ashes grew some beautiful roses.

That's so nice you have those great memories of life, and I can see them, too, dancing to the crystal clear voice of Patsy Cline. That's what love is all about.

Great photo of those flowers!

livenomad said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very touching description. Memorial day is a reminder: In NZ, there is Anzac day and the phrase used is 'Lest We Forget'. I appreciate those who have been before us, for without them, things would not be the way they are.
Cherish peoples' lives; for when they have touched ours, it was a life worth celebrating.

Valerie said...

Seeing your parents dance cheek to cheek means they are always in your heart ... what a wonderful way to remember them. I am not a lover of graveyards, preferring not to visualise my kin under mounds of earth, no matter how sacred it is.

Beatriz Kim said...

When I was ten, I lived next to a beautiful and vivacious young mother of two. She was Korean and her husband was Afro-American. It was sort of a forbidden love amongst Koreans, but they were very happy. Their children were brats, but I loved them.

After 3 years of sharing and spending time together, we found out that she had cancer! She was gone in 6 months! I remember my last visit. She was so sick and I was really scared. I just didn't understand what this all meant.

When she died, it just didn't seem real. I never got to go to the funeral or visit her grave.

All my life I wondered if it would have helped to visit her grave. I don't even know her name because I simply called her auntie, a Korean tradition.

She was just 28 years old. When I turned 28, I realized how young she had been. How she missed out on so much.

Now from your perspective, I realize how her children must have felt. I always think of them and wish them well.

I hope that someday, your pain will be lessened in some way. I guess that's not easy.

Thank you for sharing this story. I feel honored that you chose to share your story this way.

By the way, I have 4 blogs! Really! The two you're not aware of are the ones I write more frequently and happen to be the most popular.

Just click on one of the blogs, go down on the right sidebar, and you'll see a list of my blog links, the latest title, and the latest photo!

Hope to see you there!

CrazyCris said...

Oh my, I can't imagine growing up with only one of my parents!

Or losing the love of your life so young...

I've been lucky in that respect in that so far I've only lost 3 of 4 grandparents (one before I was born) and although it was very painful I was somewhat conscious that it was their time and they were going to a better place (after having severe health problems for many months before).

And I don't think one needs a special day to remember the dead... we think of our loved ones constantly, whenever something reminds us of them and makes us smile or cry.

I don't believe we have a Memorial Day here in Spain, something specific for fallen soldiers. We do have All Saint's Day on November 1st which is a holiday and supposedly the day you're supposed to go to the cemeteries and visit your loved ones... It is by the way an interesting time to visit cemeteries as families leave the graves all decked out in flowers, it can be quite beautiful in a melancholic sort of way...

Natalie said...

Sweetie, oh so sad for you all. Living a spiritual life as you do, certainly does bring a measure of comfort, but still, it must have been hard for all of your younger years.

Biggest love to you for sharing, and just because I can.xx♥

Ruth said...

Forever young - a good way to remember them.

Our aging bodies aren't who we are anyway. We're all somewhere between 5 and 21 inside, I think.

Cheryl Ann said...

I agree with your thoughts. I've visited the cemetery where my grandparents are buried and thought, "They aren't here." I remember them as they were, in their "golden years", but I'm sure they are somewhere else, in their youth.

Anna said...

My friends and I were talking the other night about the "other side" and how our loved ones visit us, even after death. I've always been a real skeptic, but I always find myself sometimes talking to those that have left like they were right beside me, without even thinking about it. And I claim I don't believe in ghosts.

We always have nice chit chats.

harmony said...

Thank you for this lovely post. I love how you ended it with the shirley temples and jerky. I enjoyed how visual your memory was for me.
I believe today is a great day to listen to Patsy Cline.

Kathy G said...

I haven't been to the cemetery in many years, preferring to remember my parents as they were. My Dad died when I was 13 and my Mom died a decade after that.

However, this summer I think I'm going to make a day trip for a Grand Tour of the cemetery. In addition to my parents, my MIL and FIL are buried there, along with assorted aunts and uncles.

They've recently discovered that there's a small remnant of original prairie tucked in an unused corner of the cemetery, so I'm planning on making that the final stop of my visit.

luksky said...

I also lost my mother to breast cancer when she was 60.....and I thought that was young. Believe it or not I never went back to my mothers grave site after the funeral. I never felt that's where she was.

Kay said...

They live on in your memorie...what a story, may you find peace in your day

Pat said...

I so sorry that you lost your mom at such a young age - for both of you! This was so beautifully written. I felt your pain and stood beside you in that graveyard. It's good to hold on to those good memories of your parents.

I have lost both my parents, too, but they both lived to their 80's. I still miss them so much. But it's wonderful to see a part of them in each and every one of my siblings - my brother Mickey resembles my father more and more as he ages, my brother Bob has my dad's carpentry skills, my twin, Pam has Dad's spunk, my sister, Linda, has Dad's smarts, and my sister, Ann has Dad's bluntness. I think I took over Dad's job of photographing family gatherings, although Bob helps in that category, too. As far as my Mom goes, Linda carries on her wish to keep us all together by always having get togethers, Pam is looking more and more like Mom, Ann worries like Mom, and I like to think I have her sense of humor.

I dream of my parents sometimes, and they are always healthy looking and happy. That's how I want to remember them. We all visit the cemetery on the holidays, but my parents are in my heart - always.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Writing about the people we love brings out the extraordinary! This is a beautiful tribute!!! You capture this beautifully with your words, and I can "see" your parents...I prefer to remember my parents happy and healthy as well...Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart, and memories...~Janine XO

Rain said...

Oh LOL, you manage to pull deep emotion from me a lot of the time. I can picture them dancing, with Patsy Cline playing. You would do well to harness your effective writing into a fictional novel. Although we don't have Memorial Day here, after reading all of my U.S. friends' blogs these days, I really miss my Grandfather. He was a cook in WW2 and I really miss him.

Marlene said...

So very young...to have experienced that both you and your mom ..I never go to cemetaries..My daughter thinks they are peaceful, but I just feel when I am there all the pain and sadness of those that have loved ones there..Its so hard on the ones left behind here to say goodbye. The happy memories are were they remain, not there.. thsnk you for sharing your story.

Leah J. Utas said...

Beautiful take on it. I'm not big on cemeteries. Souls are off doing stuff. That's how I see it.

linda said...

my youth was spent much the same although I did not have to go through your agony of loss...this was beautifully written, moving me to tears...

thank you for sharing the grace that touches your life...

Moondancer said...

What a great way to remember your parents. Memories are wonderous things.

nikina said...

what a touching post .... and a beautiful way to remember :)

Marguerite said...

Beautiful and moving post, LOL. It is part of the Cajun culture to not only frequently visit the grave sites of loved ones who have passed, but to include them in every occasion and holiday. People place everything from flowers & hearts for Valentine's Day to baloons for birthdays, and even Mardi Gras beads for Mardi Gras, etc! I find great comfort in following this tradition.

MzzLily said...

I've always hated the cemetary routine. I don't do it. Sorry. I sometimes take my mom to Gramma's grave, but Gramma's not there. She is in heaven! Yes, cemetaries are for people. Some people. When Hubby and I die, we are donating our bodies to the university's medical unit. After they are done and cremate us, I have promised him to distribute his ashes here on this farm he so dearly loves. I told him he could flush me if he wants, just as long as I end up somewhere in water! I feel a blog coming on...

Nancy said...

That is so sad. I'm glad you can visualize the happiness of the years prior to her death. That is SOMETHING. Knowing people go to heaven doesnt make us miss them less, only gives some hope to go on because we know we'll see them again one day. I know the sadness of a motherless life so sending you a virtual hug..
((((((((((hugs)))))))))))))

Hilary said...

I'm so sorry that you lost your Mother when you and she were both so young. How beautiful though, that you see your parents in the youth of their love.

TWINGLE said...

Its so good you have memories that last a lifetime and keep your parents young in your dreams. Shortly I too will have to remember the anniversary of my fathers death but with a grave far away in a land across the sea I wonder wether I can too have fond memories.. Still thank you for an insight into your feelings, may you feel your parents guarding over you from afar!

susan said...

Maybe every day should be Memorial Day and one day a year given over to hate and aggression so those of us who don't want to participate could stay home.

This is a beautiful story about your parents and the reasons we should celebrate life and the lives of those who have passed away. I'm sorry you lost your mother when you were so very young. It's not easy losing a parent even when we're old so my heart goes out to the little girl in the white dress standing at a lonely graveside.

Life is good and does continue past that mysterious gate but the division is tragic while it lasts.

Jo said...

Ah, what a lovely story. Your mother was so young...! My goodness. And too young for you to have lost her.

Love does not die when the person dies. Your parents can still feel your love, and you can still feel their love for you. It's what binds us together throught he ages. They are as you remember them, dancing cheek to cheek.

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

Oh...such a poignant story and so well written. Cemeteries to me are homes for remembrance but the true remembrance is that of our memories..beautiful post from the heart.

scarlethue said...

Beautiful post. I guess Memorial Day holds a different meaning for all of us.

The Sign Lady said...

Thank for writing what I feel in my heart.
I lost my mother when I was 13, and though that's many many years ago, sometimes it's still so new.
I don't do the cemetery things much either. I've gone with my Dad, mostly for his benefit and to let him know that I still remember her.
(Bringing on the tears just writing this!)
I don't go to the cemetery because that's not where she is. I don't know what she's doing all of the time, but sometimes she's here with me.
Thanks so much for sharing and giving the chance to share back.

Joanne said...

What a touching story, I'm so sorry you lost your mother at such a young age. It's nice how in your mind, you still see them dancing, music playing, remembering their lives.

Kate said...

I am glad my little brother's grave is too far away to visit. I prefer to remember him as he was when I moved out, young and full of life. Memorial Day, for me, is a day for happy memories, not graveyards.

Rose said...

You have wonderful memories of your parents dancing cheek to cheek to the sounds of Patsy Cline's tunes.

Sad for your loss at such a young age.

Hugs, Rose

Jeff D'Antonio said...

I take Katie to visit her mom's grave every year on the anniversary of her death, on her birthday, on Mother's Day, and any other time she feels the need to go there. Sometimes she sits quietly, lost in her own thoughts; sometimes she talks to her out loud, as if her mom were standing right there; sometimes she cries. Going there is comforting to her, even though it hurts sometimes. We try our best to make sure she always remembers her mother's life more than she remembers her death. Time has faded her memories of those awful weeks and months at the end, but she will never forget the happier times, and the image of her mom and dad dancing and laughing together will stay with her for life.

Boomka said...

I have never been a fan of the cemetery/funeral process either. It seems so forced, like you have to be unhappy and solemn there. I want to decide how I remember my loved ones. It's hard enough losing someone, never mind being told when and where you can grieve for them and miss them. I don't doubt they are dancing cheek to cheek somewhere, right now.

pranksygang said...

we Hindus never had cemeteries.. the bodies are burnt and women are not allowed to see them.. only men are!

I'm sorry for what has happened to you! This article moved my heart.

Momma Moe said...

Lovely post...God bless.

The Good Cook said...

What a lovely, heartfelt post. I can't imagine how hard it must have been for your mother to leave her two young children. I bet she has watched over you all these years from a good place.

Verily I go. said...

Dear Lover of Life. I finally got through this post. It has taken me several starts. I cannot imagine, so very little and without my Mom. I've just recently lost mine and miss her so much. Did you realize the minute you met your daughter how much your Mom loved you? I was overwhelmed by that knowledge. Lovely to see them dancing.

Kat said...

What a wonderful story of your mother and father. I could just imagine it all. How they met and danced to Patsy Cline.
I have no reason to go visit my father's grave, and have only twice in ten years. I don't see him there either. But I see him all the time in my dreams and daily life. Thanks for sharing.

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

Your father is a good man. To care for two small children when the love of his life passes away is the work of a real man full of love and devotion. This is a beautiful chapter in your life, even if it was severely painful. You are a brilliant, strong woman and I'm sure your father raised you to be that way. Your mother would have been very pleased. :)

I enjoy your blog very much.

Lydia said...

Took me awhile to get around to reading your Memorial Day post and wow what a special one. The story of your folks is really rich, and of your young heartbreak so very touching. BTW, I know Gerlach and I know Bruno's!

Will be publishing a post within the hour and TAG! (only if this appeals to you.....)

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