This post was inspired by Kumud Ajmani, friend and host moderator of #SpiritChat on Twitter. His weekly post today for our Sunday AM gathering was “On Living Memorials” and that prompted me to think of some examples from my experience which I am glad to share here. Here is a link to his post for those interested: spiritchat140.wordpress.com
Here are my examples of living memorials:
1 – Cemeteries – While many might think of these as places for the dead, I find them places of beauty, peace and memories for the living. There is a small, cemetery on our short private dirt road, Cantos Road, here in southern Arizona. The land was given by the King family and dedicated to St. Joseph.
The earliest death I saw recorded was 1915. There are approximately 100 graves, numerous members of the same families buried there. The most recent death recorded was 2007 and there are very few spaces left when it will be at capacity. Then what? Who will look after it to make sure that these people will be remembered? Probably some of the descendants who live nearby. There are many stories buried there that would be fascinating to learn and that would take some serious, local research.
There is another small cemetery in Preble County, Ohio, Twin Chapel Creek, just across Yohe Road from the chapel with the same name, near West Manchester, Ohio. Several generations of my family are buried there and the last time I was there was to honor my father and mother who died in 1979 and 2008 respectively. It’s a beautiful place on a small hill where you can hear the wind blowing through the trees.
There are cemeteries that honor those who died in the service of their country in the Armed Forces and they are, if anything else, indelibly impressed on my mind and heart. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial on the French coast speaks volumes about not only the numbers but the names and ranks of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. There is a National Cemetery in Santa Fe, New Mexico that I drove by often and I could not pass it without looking at those hundreds of white tombstones knowing that each one had a family. There are 142 National Cemeteries maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 40 states and Puerto Rico along with several soldiers’ monuments and memorials. Why? To remember, lest we forget.
2 – Memorial Gifts – These come in many forms, in small and large objects, often inscribed with the name of the deceased. They range from something as small as a book and as large as a building. These gifts are made to individuals, to organizations, to museums, libraries, schools, colleges and universities, places of worship, historical sites, parks and even to surviving family members.
There are also monetary gifts which often have a name attached to them that provide funds which are invested so that they keep on giving over time. The most obvious of these are foundations such as Gates, the largest and one where the donors are still very much alive. There’s a list of the 50 biggest foundations in the U.S. by assets and there are many more smaller ones including funds rather than a foundation that is dedicated to single purpose as the donors’ wish. You can think of many such funds that provide money for scholarships, research, social causes, education, public service, political activities, and healthcare.
3 – Descendants – We are all living memorials to those who preceded us. We honor their lives and remember them in many ways via birthdays, anniversaries of their deaths, celebrations of their lives and through stories. Remember the time when……and you can fill in the rest. When I was a child Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and was observed by putting flowers and flags on the graves of family members. I did not like marching in the parade on a hot day in May all the way to the local cemetery to hear speeches by people I generally did not know or care about. I knew they had good intentions and I understood why we were all called to assemble but I still didn’t like it. I grew up, was able to find meaning and purpose on this holiday, more than I thought possible then. That’s how life is and as we move along the continuum, we come to understand the importance of remembering and and the value of keeping traditions and memories alive and part of our own ongoing stories. Your story, and mine, will be part of our families bank of memories. May you celebrate this Memorial Day with renewed memories that are important in your life and with those whom you love.