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The Last Windrow: Cemeteries bring people together

Joe and John always paid a visit to our farm this coming weekend. Always. Never missed a year. We didn't see them again until the following year. This weekend ushers in a time when people get together. The three-day weekend is seen as the beginni...

Joe and John always paid a visit to our farm this coming weekend. Always. Never missed a year. We didn't see them again until the following year.

This weekend ushers in a time when people get together. The three-day weekend is seen as the beginning of "official" summer, although summer doesn't really start until mid-June. But that aside, people get together this weekend, Memorial Day.

It is also a weekend that brings people together in cemeteries across the country. There will be parades, speeches, fireworks and other civic get-togethers, but most people will honor the weekend by visiting a cemetery to pay respects to those who have gone on before us.

There are numerous human feelings during these visits. Sorrow, longing, remorse all flow through our collective bones. But, there is also joy to be shared in remembering lives well lived and family history, good and bad.

As a kid, I was rather leery of cemeteries. I thought you only went there to die. Or, to be with someone who went there because some family relative or friend had passed on. I didn't find much pleasure in visiting any cemetery. Somehow the years that have passed have changed that feeling.

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My wife and I have traveled a bit through our years and one of the places - although it might seem bizarre to some - that we have found interesting are the cemeteries that are scattered across the landscape. We've been in cemeteries in Germany and many of the other states we have traveled to. You can learn a lot from a tombstone.

On our trips to the south, we've visited a number of Civil War vintage cemeteries, both north and south. Reading the inscriptions on the tombstones gives one a feeling that the war was really never over for some.

One such inscription in Tennessee read, "Killed by a Damn Yankee Rifle Ball. Long live the Confederacy!" You didn't have to guess what this family's feeling was toward the war.

In an old, overgrown cemetery in Kentucky, I found a family site. There were seven headstones, two for the parents and five for the kids, and then there was one added headstone at the end of the row. The inscription simply read "Mammy." I am guessing that the woman who worked at the house was held in high enough regard to have gained a place beside the family. I don't know, but I'm thinking that.

Another tombstone in another cemetery reads, "I Never Voted For Roosevelt." Well, I'd guess what political party this person was from. You can bring a smile to your face sometimes in places such as these. I didn't know that when I was 12.

Getting back to Joe and John, they were nephews of my granddad. They had lost a young sister and she was buried atop a hill in a small, rural family cemetery about a mile from our farm.

Every year that I can remember, Joe and John would drive into our farmyard, pull up a chair and visit with my granddad and my dad. When the visit was over, they would take a bouquet of flowers up to their sister's plot and plant them there for the year. They never missed a year.

Just a few years ago the county was planning to widen the road and had a plan to perhaps move that little cemetery to make room for the expanded road.

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Again, that cemetery drew old family members together to work against moving that little, fenced-in cemetery, and it still stands there today after being noted as a "Pioneer Cemetery" in that part of Iowa.

The cemetery brought people together.

There will be a lot of that happening this weekend. Have a memory filled Memorial Day.

See you next time. Okay?

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