“We laugh here. We love here.” -A Memorial Day Post –

It is no coincidence that the peonies bloom just before Memorial Day.  In my town, we’ve been plucking them from their bushes and inhaling their sweetness all the way to the cemetery for generations – mothers and daughters, grandmothers and aunts and small children trailing up the hillside steps to lay their offerings beside . . . This stone. We just doted on her, and my, wouldn’t she have loved these flowers? Leave the biggest one, the pale pink. She wouldn’t mind the ants, she never killed a living creature.

Oh, and this little girl. Just pneumonia, but you know back then . . . broke your grandma’s heart. Do you know, she would never lock the back door, for fear the baby’s spirit would want to come in?
Here, him. That was suicide, so tragic – he left a wife, and a baby he never saw.
And that big stone, he was a colonel in the Civil War, Missy did a history report about his life, she got an A.
The branches of the massive oaks knot and arch and tangle overhead so that the ground beneath stays soft and cool, and summer commences to the somnolent buzz of honey bees, the squash of dandelions beneath bare feet. Voices lose their solemnity and ring with warmth and laughter. Children tug their palms from their mother’s sweaty grasps and run flitting between the stones in furtive games of Tag.
Perhaps Memorial Day is as much for the living as the dead? Our loved ones honored best by laughter with their flowers?  

For this is our cemetery as much as theirs. Our high school track team runs the seventy seven steps all the way to the first row of stones every spring. And the Halloween parties! Climbing the hill in the dark with our hearts in our throats – the big kids always running ahead, only to jump out later and terrify the little ones. Lovers park in the far corner, out of sight where the ground takes that big dip. Children drink from the hand pump beside the gazebo while their mothers plant perennials. Most years, the senior prank involves hauling the Borden cow statue from the local plant and depositing it amongst the stones.

 Life is sweeter, more poignant in our cemetery. Perhaps only in contrast to those silent markers, or perhaps because it needs to be. But either way, we laugh here, we love here, and sometimes we play hopscotch on the stepping stones beside the entryway. And I’m pretty sure that regardless of where I am buried, my soul will seek this place out to stretch beneath the oaks on a carpet of peony petals.   

Lucy Crowe

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