Memorial, by Sean Dietrich

The 94-year-old woman gets a jumpstart on Decoration Day every year. The cemetery gets busy at her little church in Elmore County. She likes to be early to the party. 

She has brown-flecked hands. Tissue-paper skin. She arrives at the cemetery accompanied by her grandson. They get there in the morning, before the heat of the day. When fog still hangs above the earth. 

Her grandson helps her out of the car. She uses a four-pronged cane to walk. Her grandson carries a box of decorations.  

“What was my grandfather like?” the kid asks. 

“He was a good man,” she says, placing a black-and-white photo on her late husband’s grave. In the photo, a young man is wearing an Air Force uniform. 

He was a pilot. He dropped bombs for a living. 

“He never got over it,” she said. “It haunted him, killing all those people just by mashing a button.” 

Southerners do not “press” a button. They “mash” it. 

“After the war,” she went on, “he used to wake up at night sometimes, crying, and I didn’t know what to do but rub his back.”  

Memorial Day is what most people call it now. But it’s still called Decoration Day in many areas. Especially in the Appalachian portions of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, north Georgia, northern and central Alabama, north Mississippi. Also, in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, the Rocky Mountain regions of Colorado Utah, and in parts of California. 

It all started after the Civil War. Women and children would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. By World War I’s end, some 120,000 Americans died in combat. By World War II, nearly 420,000 American soldiers were deceased. 

In U.S. towns, from coast to coast, families placed framed photographs on graves. Stuffed animals. Little flags. Keepsakes. Notecards. 

“I remember when you couldn’t visit a cemetery without seeing photographs everywhere,” says the old woman. “They don’t do pictures very much anymore. Now everyone mostly does flags.”  

Families also put pebbles on tombstones. A practice which started in Biblical times. Likewise, there are lots of pennies on grave markers. If you place a penny on the plot of a loved one, you’re granted one wish. 

I wonder what most people wish for. 

And flowers. Today, the flower industry experiences few inventory surges—save for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day—like they do on Memorial Day. 

You can see all the flowers if you pull over and visit any graveyard, off any two-lane highway. Roses, tulips, lilacs, daffodils, sunflowers, carnations, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and plastic flowers of every color, shape, size, and denomination. 

The old woman has selected carnations. White ones. 

“Harry doesn’t care if we decorate his grave,” she says. “Besides, he didn’t die in combat, and people in heaven don’t care about flowers. It’s me who cares.” 

But it’s not just her. More than 41 million Americans served in the military over the last century. More than 600,000 have died in service since World War I. Memorial Day is theirs. Not ours. 

Which is why the old woman has one thing to say about their memoriam:

“Don’t say ‘Happy Memorial Day’ this weekend. It’s not happy. It ain’t about parades and barbecues. It’s about missing someone so badly you can’t breathe.” 

Have a meaningful Memorial Day.

Originally published on Sean’s website. Republished here with permission.

If you enjoyed this article, then please REPOST or SHARE with others; encourage them to follow AFNN. If you’d like to become a citizen contributor for AFNN, contact us at Help keep us ad-free by donating here.

Substack: American Free News Network Substack
Truth Social: @AFNN_USA
CloutHub: @AFNN_USA
Patriot.Online: @AFNN

Leave a Comment