Every Memorial Day, my dad took us to the cemetery to decorate the graves.
The holiday is reserved to honor those to died while serving our country. My dad was a tail gunner in World War II in the Chinese/Burma Theater. He flew 38 missions. Every Memorial Day, we went to Saint Mary's Cemetery in Ravenna and saw a sea of flags planted there by veterans groups.
My dad wanted us to see that scene, to be grateful for their service and sacrifice and to remember our family members who had passed on. We would plant flowers on my grandparents' graves, then Dad took us to visit the tiny grave of his little brother, Michael.
Michael is alive in my heart because of those Memorial Day visits. I stopped by his grave today.
First, I put flowers in front of my dad's grave. I planted red, white and blue petunias, to honor him on this day. The veterans' group had already been there and planted a big flag next to his grave.
Two gravesites down, I spotted a familiar tombstone for a soldier who died in WWII. Thomas J. Busher. His sister, Agnes, married my dad's brother, Joe.
Thomas J. Busher died on April 2, 1945. There was a flag by his grave, but no flowers. It looked so official, so military, so I planted a row of red, white and blue petunias. As I tucked them in, I noticed the other date on his grave. May, 25, 1924. He was just 20 when he died.
As I ran my fingers across the marker, in a gentle thank you caress, it hit me that today was his birthday. May 25.
I cried for him, and for the family that once stood at this grave and lowered in their son, their brother, our soldier.
Then I put marigolds on my grandparents' graves and went looking for little Michael. I left a row of yellow marigolds for my uncle whose tombstone reads:
Michael Francis Brett
April 1, 1922 Sept. 28
And as I walked away with dirty knees and hands, the wind picked up and the smell of lilacs in the breeze was my thanks from all of them.