Holidays are rough for many people for many reasons. When it comes to specific family “holidays” like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or even the up and rising Grandparents Day the celebration can be awkward or painful for many.
When I was young, divorced parents were few and far between among my classmates ( it was the 1970’s). I dreaded Father’s Day conversation brought up within my circle of friends and the only saving grace was I never had to endure Father’s Day art projects, cards, or dinners as the holiday falls in the summer.
When I married and started a family the celebration of Father’s Day shifted to my husband and I was more than happy to celebrate his fatherhood. My husband came from a fatherless family and it was a relief to him to have a reason to celebrate.
As I grew older others my age grieved for the loss of their Fathers as they passed. I did all my grieving as a child so when my father passed my emotions were void and the funeral planning was somewhat methodical.
I admire the younger generations and their definition of family. Families, fathers included, are not defined by a person’s gender, blood DNA, or even location. Instead families are as they should be ; groups of humans who love and care for each other and choose to share their lives with one another. It’s not that I dislike this holiday but rather I dream of a future were my grandchildren and great -grandchildren live and where families are chosen out of love and not a definition created by others.
I’ve seen this picture online at a couple of different sites but never with a title or location. I find the picture haunting and beautiful. When first seeing it on Pinterest the first thought I had was that looks like a stairway to heaven. Yes , I am a Led Zepplin fan.
What thoughts do you have when you see this picture?
Every year we drive up to Minnesota to see our youngest daughter and her partner. It’s such a long drive from Kansas (12 hours) that unless we have planed ahead we simply just drive, and that’s a lot of highway.
When we do pull off the highway, and as long as it doesn’t take us too far off the path, I try to locate local cemeteries. The small city of Cameron, Missouri has a population of around 10,000. Give or take a few thousand. This small size city has the daunting task of taking care of 5 cemeteries. All five are large cemeteries and all five belong to the city of Cameron. The cemeteries are: McDaniel 600+, Packard 2000+, Graceland Memorial 1000+, Graceland 2000+, Evergreen 1500+, the numbers represent approximately how many are buried at each cemetery. Cameron had a historical board as well as a cemetery board and with that many cemeteries to maintain its easy to understand why they have the boards. I’m in awe of how such a small city manages to maintain so much cemetery acreage.
While visiting my youngest child before COVID we went to some favorite spots , one of them being Gooseberry Falls in Duluth MN. The falls are beautiful as are the trees, streams, and foliage. This time when we went to the falls we saw something we had never seen before- Cairns. What are those? Cairns are small piles of rocks. I decided to look up there meaning, if any. The word “cairn” is a pile of rocks placed on top of one another. This is a deep rooted Scottish hillside tradition that signifies respect. That would explain the word for a small pile of rocks pronounced kern which is a Scottish Gaelic word. This tradition of piling rocks some say goes back much further than that. Some archeologists believe cairns were used as landmarks in the prehistoric era. Cairns are also used to mark trails or routes.
Another use is by Buddhist to symbolize wishes for family, respect for a passing loved one. In Hawaii they are called ahu and the Native Americans call these piles of rock wa-wa-an-quas-sick ( place of many good stones ). Cairns can also be memorials. A pile of rocks placed upon a burial site. Actor Dennis Hopper is buried under a cairn in a Native American burial site in Taos, NM. I learn something new every time I travel outside my own little world, and I enjoy seeing and learning new things.
I have changed my mind several times as to what I want done with my body when I am gone. I have at this older age made my decision and it is my final choice. Unfortunately my past has made me think of this more than others might. I have personally planned every family members funeral. I spoke at most of them. I have learned what I don’t want. I walk for an hour each day for exercise and for my dog, he loves the walks. There is a park very close to my house and I have walked through it thousands of times. A friend pointed out the marker one day as we walked together. It has sunken a bit but it sits by a tree , a tree that was planted in honor of his passing. Of course most cities would never give permission to allow such a tree planting or a marker placed but 30 years ago they did. I’m sure others have found it over time and others will find the maker in the future. What a nice place in a park, under a big tree.
The weather has been warmer and my walks have been longer. I live in a neighborhood that has parks, sidewalks, and friendly neighbors. I ran into a neighbor that I heard had lost his wife in 2020 , but I had not had the chance to tell him personally how sorry I was. His booming voice called me over and I told him how sorry I was to hear of his wife’s passing. He and his wife would walk in good weather even after hip and knee replacements. His voice started to break as he talked about her. My heart broke as I listened. He explained that the “virus took her”. I finished my walk and began to think about everything he had said. This couple was not young but they took good care of each other. They got their flu shots, pneumonia shots, and went to the doctor annually. I thought even beyond his loss and about the total loss of life to COVID. To date 500,000.00 people have died of COVID in the United States. If you consider for one moment that each life lost affects 10 other people spiritually, emotionally, and financially then that total comes to 5 Million. Five million + souls walking around in 2020 trying to understand what happened. Be kind people, it was a very hard year.
I took this cross to baby Paul’s grave today for Christmas. Below is my original post from 2016 about baby Paul.
Can’t see the forest through the trees.🌳
I tell myself that starting with the New Year I will learn to slow down and take a moment to see what is in the world around me. Living in the present is what it’s called, to take note and of what is around you and learn from it, value it, an awareness of time.
Now there are two things I have learned about living in the present. The first is if you are a parent raising children you are living in the moment ALL the time, the only problem is you are so busy that you barely have time to appreciate a shower much less “the moment”. The second it is so much easier to live in the now and appreciate the world around you when you are older and have finished raising your kids.I experienced one small example of this the other day.
Two of my brothers, my stepfather , and stepbrother are all buried in a small area of a local cemetery. I have been visiting and decorating their graves for various holidays for over 20 years. I know every section of that cemetery, every tree, every new grave. When I visited the cemetery with a friend to place some of my holiday memorial crosses on the graves my friend ask me if this baby’s grave was a relative. Baby grave? What? I looked at the stone that was inches away from my family and read the dates; birth June 16 1895, death July 6, 1895. It’s not that I hadn’t noticed the grave before. I noticed it was old, alone, and it had a male name inscribed. I had also noticed how close it was to my family graves. In 20 years I had never stopped once to actually read the marker. I was somewhat embarrassed to admit to my friend that I had never noticed it. My mother would call that not being able to see the forest through the trees. In other words, we are so busy with our own little world that we don’t acknowledge what is around us.
The next time I go I think I will bring along an extra cross for that baby I never knew or took a moment to see.