Every summer I sneak out of the office two or three times for a personal camping retreat. Since I take project files, marketing materials and a cell phone, it’s kind of a working retreat. Still, I find it relaxing to do this work around a campfire or sitting in the shade of an oak or hickory tree, far away from the daily routine. I also get a chance to leisurely explore some areas of my state that I normally whiz past or otherwise rarely see.
I took my first retreat of the season last week, taking in the relatively small southwestern Iowa communities of Winterset, Creston, Mount Ayr and Clarinda. I paused to check out one of the countless rural cemeteries that dot the Iowa landscape. Perhaps you have similar cemeteries in your community.
Its name – Memory Cemetery – caught my eye. As one might expect, it was tidy and neat. In fact, a maintenance man was trimming its manicured lawn on the day I visited – a perfect, clear, warm-but-not-yet-hot-and-muggy early summer Iowa day.
But something else caught my eye that morning, a large mound of color tucked under a tree on a distant corner of the cemetery grounds. As I approached, it was clear what the pile was – hundreds of floral arrangements that had decorated the cemetery’s graves a little over a week earlier, on Memorial Day. As a sign noted, flowers that interfered with mowing would be removed one week after a holiday.
Although totally appropriate, it was still sad to see what had days earlier been loving tributes to the departed, dumped into a corner where they would soon fade and complete their own dust-to-dust cycle.
It also struck me that our own family stories could suffer a similar fate if we don’t take care to save them. We all have stories of loss when loved ones die, taking their own unique and special qualities to the grave with them. The best memorial we can give them is to preserve their legacies so future generations will know them as more than a name on a grave marker.