A reverent and peaceful setting


I visited three cemeteries around Memorial Day, proof that I am more and more becoming my mother. Or maybe my grandmother. Because visiting cemeteries is what I did every Memorial Day as I was growing up. That’s when it was called Decoration Day, and that’s why we went — to decorate the graves of family members.

It wasn’t a go-to-the-store-and-buy-some-flowers event, either. No, it was much more involved than that. We took flowers from our home gardens, so first the flowers had to be gathered. What I remember is that it was iris, because they were early bloomers. We had to bring water for the flowers in their glass jars that we also had to bring, making sure that the water didn’t spill in the car on the way to the cemetery, of course. Then we had to make sure that the right flowers were on the right graves, however some adult had that figured.

Mostly what I was there for was to serve as a gofer, I figured early on, as I helped truck and haul to the appropriate headstones while being cautioned not to walk on the graves. The whole thing was basically too tedious for my young taste, but I understood that this was an important ritual for my grandma. One grave we always decorated was her first husband, the grandfather I never knew, who died suddenly at the age of 36.

That grave is at Lawn Hill, one of the country cemeteries I visited this Memorial Day. I couldn’t help feeling the peace surrounding that place when I was there. It’s on a gentle hillside next to a gravel road in the midst of fertile Hamilton County farm fields, like many other cemeteries in our county. The place was all spruced up for the special holiday, newly mowed, with bright flowers on many tombstones and American flags posted for all the veterans buried there.

The land for this cemetery was purchased in 1874. I located two graves for Civil War veterans, although records show there are six from that war there. I wonder why these young men were involved in this war and just how they came to be buried in the middle of Iowa. After all these years, neither of the graves for these veterans had flowers. But they are still remembered, as both of the weathered tomb stones had American flags beside them, just like all the other veterans buried in this country cemetery.

There are bigger, more elaborate cemeteries than Lawn Hill, to be sure. And many of them are located in more populated areas. But I doubt that anywhere there is a cemetery in a more lovely setting that is more reverent and peaceful .