The calendar says the summer equinox is still almost a month away. But unofficially, in the United States, summer begins on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day.
Originally known as Decoration Day, as it sometimes still is in the South, the final Monday in May is the first long weekend of summer.
Flowers, wreaths, ribbons and flags are used to decorate and adorn the graves of our loved ones especially those who died in service to the nation.
When my mother was alive, she put flowers on the graves of all her family during Memorial Day. She spent weeks working with silk flowers and plastic ones so she could leave a bouquet on each one. She would also clean the dirt and other debris off the headstones. She called it “washing their faces.”
She would talk to my grandmother, Lillie Mae Kirk. All her children and their spouses called my grandma Momma. She liked my daddy best of her two sons-in-law. My Grandpa Berry Kirk preferred my Uncle Curtis.
I never feel close to my family members when I am at the cemetery. Arbor Vitae is kept nearly as immaculate as Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Our Cemetery District Board of Directors and CEO Belva Bare work hard to keep its cemeteries in top condition.
But that isn’t where I feel them close to me. A favorite spot we visited is where I can be with their spirits.
In Madera on Monday at 9 a.m., American Flags will be hung at Calvary Cemetery, the city’s Catholic Cemetery, 28447 Avenue 14. At 10 a.m., the flags will all go up at Arbor Vitae Cemetery, 1301 Roberts Ave.
At 11 a.m. in front of the Courthouse Museum in Memorial Courthouse Park, ceremonies will be held with music, prayers and a 21-gun salute to fallen comrades who are why Memorial Day exists.
Retailers offer special pricing on merchandise at this time. Feel free to buy furniture or vehicles as the country needs consumer participation to strengthen our nation.
However, teach your kids why this holiday isn’t just about barbecues and cheap mattresses. Real people, many living right here in Madera, entered the service and never returned to their families. We remember these men and women on this last Monday in May, and every day.
As President Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, “They gave their last full measure of devotion …”
They died protecting people they never met. Some of these brave soldiers were in their teens and lied about their ages to get into the service. After the Civil War when the tradition gained widespread popularity soldiers young and old killed in battle were buried and their graves adorned with flowers.
Americans deem the last Monday in May as sacred. We honor our war dead especially those who died in battle. We honor our branches of the military and we celebrate the freedoms and other things that have Made American Great for so long.
Go ahead and enjoy a family barbecue. Don’t drink and drive as the roads will be heavily traveled by others getting home to see their family. The three branches of local law enforcement, Madera Police, County Sheriff and California Highway Patrol, will be watching and waiting for dangerous, distracted drivers.
Long days and pleasant nights, have a great weekend.
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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing email@example.com or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.