Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day ~ A Time of Remembrance

Memorial Day,
a
day of remembrance,
was first set aside in 1866 as a day to remember those soldiers whose lives were lost in the Civil War.
It was celebrated on May 30 each year.

I remember as a child that we sometimes called this day Decoration Day.
Over the years, I think the meaning of the day has evolved.
Some see the day as a day to honor those killed in the service of their country.
Others see the day as a day to remember those whom they have lost to death.
They remember them by visiting their graves and leaving flowers.
Others see it as the beginning of summer and celebrate it by having a barbecue.

Memorial Day
Evergreen Cemetery


In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday designated to be celebrated each year
 on the fourth Monday of May.
I found a short video about the history of Memorial Day that you might find interesting.

For me, and for many of my family members, Memorial Day Weekend is fraught with sad memories.
Five years ago, my daughter's life ended in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 29, 2010.
This day fell on the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend.
It seems we always have two anniversary reminders of her death.
The actual date, and the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.

This year, I found myself alone on Memorial Day.
Jim had to work.
Family did not gather as we sometimes do because of busy schedules and bad weather.
I chose to spend the day remembering those no longer with us by visiting the cemetery alone.

My mother asked me to leave some flowers on her mother's grave.
I was so touched when she told me how she wished
 she could take some flowers to her mother's grave.


I never knew my grandmother, Lulu Castle Townsley.  
She died from breast cancer at the age of sixty-seven in 1941,
 four years before I was born.
An independent woman, she homesteaded by herself in Northern Colorado before she married my grandfather at the age of 35.
Throughout her life she worked very hard to support herself and her family.
As a child, she made bread for the family while her own mother worked when her father died when she was nine years old.  Mother told me her mother had to stand on a chair to reach a counter where she would knead the bread.
Lulu Castle Townsley had to fend for herself as a homesteader.
She drove a horse and buggy across the plains to town, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming,  with a hoe beside her in the wagon which she used to kill the rattle snakes that would get entangled in her wagon wheels.

She was forty-two years old when my mother, her only child, was born.
She worked throughout my mother's childhood as
a milliner,
a cook,
a caretaker and cook for sanatoriums for TB patients,
and
as a seamstress.

Even though I never met my grandmother, she has always been a strong role model for me.
My grandmother was born 141 years ago and has been gone for 74 years.
It makes me so sad to think that my mother only had her mother for 25 years.
I have been blessed at age 70 to still have my mother with me.

As I stood at my grandmother's gravesite, I told her that her daughter, 
my mother, is still here with us in the land of the living.
She will turn 99 years old at the end of the week.
I told my grandmother not to expect her to join her anytime soon.

My mother comes from pioneer stock,
yet she is a very modern woman with old fashioned values
 who always stays up to date in all that is going on in the world.
She is an amazing woman.
I think her mother would be very proud of her.
I know I am.

Albert, Lulu, and Alberta Townsley
Woodland Park, Colorado
1924

My mother
Alberta Townsley French
December 2014
age 98
*****************

Today, I left flowers on the graves of my maternal grandmother, my maternal great-grandmother and her son, my great-uncle.
All are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado


My father and my daughter are buried not far from the other family grave sites.


***************

I didn't get over to the other part of the cemetery where my paternal grandparents, aunts and uncles are buried.
I explored the older area of the cemetery because of its historical significance.

General William Jackson Palmer,
who served in the Civil War,
and then founded the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is buried in this cemetery.

I love all of the old structures on the grounds of the cemetery.
This is the old chapel that located just to the north of where General Palmer is buried.


As I got out to take a photo of the chapel, I saw a blue bird sitting on top of the  commemorative plaque in front of the building.
He flew away before I could get a better photo of him.
Can you see him?
At first I thought he was a small robin.
Then I saw his blue feathers and wings as he flew off.


********************

Nearby, is this interesting sculpture.
The inscription reads,
Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support them after.
~ William Shakespeare
from "Timon of Athens" (act 1, scene 1)


Today, as I spent the day remembering those no longer with us,
I also was reminded of those whom have supported me throughout the past five years.

One of Julie's dear friends ran the Boulder Boulder.
When she finished the race, she posted how Julie was with her during the race.
Her post was a reminder of how many dear friends Julie had in her lifetime.
Those friends will never know how much their love and support has meant to me and to her family.

I also think and remember so many of my dear friends and family members whom have been there for me during these past five years.
Many of you are blogging friends whom I have never met in person.
You have walked with me through many dark days.
You have spoken words of encouragement and love.
You have helped me find healing.
You have listened to me far more than I have listened to you.
You have supported me.
You have not left me to flounder through dark days alone.
Thank you.
I love you all.
It is good to have a day of remembrance.

18 comments:

Margaret Adamson said...

A very moving post and tribute to all who have gone before us. Your Mum looks absolutely marvellous . Looks a very strong lady and I loved seeing her as a girl. You have been through a lot over the past few years and it is wonderful that you have gained strength from mant friends.

The Furry Gnome said...

I think I can relate a little more now. We lost our oldest son on Friday. He was a water bomber pilot, fighting a forest fire in northern Alberta. We have a beautiful loft cemetery nearby where many generations of our family are buried too.

Olga Hebert said...

It was a true remembrance day for you. Thank you for sharing your family history with us in such a beautiful way.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sally for sharing your thoughts. I admit, your mother is a one of a kind woman, amazing. I appreciate the photos, something I have very few of. (Old photos) Kathy Anne

Lin Floyd said...

touching tribute to your family members, one day we will all be together again!

dkzody said...

You did a good job chronicling your day of remembrance.

Barb said...

Remembrance can give us the strength we need to go on with our lives. I know you have happy memories of Julie, but I can't imagine the pain of your grief. You come from a line of strong, Independent women, Sally. It's good to lean on that strength sometimes. Glad you saw the bluebird. Still snowing, sleeting, raining in Breck. Send me a bluebird!

rosaria williams said...

Wonderful post, Sally.

Meryl Baer said...

A touching tribute to your family, bridging generations.

Terri Tiffany said...

Your grandmother was something! Wow! She would make an amazing character for a book.
Your day sounds like it was filled with precious memories. I like that you are close enough to visit and pay honor to so many.
I also am thankful for your friendship.

Betsy Adams said...

Love this post, Sally. My mother used to be in charge of our cemetery's Decoration Day (in my hometown of Big Stone Gap, VA)... She would work hard making sure the graves all had flowers on that day--especially those who had served our country in the Armed Forces and had died for our freedom.

That was neat that you visited your cemetery on Memorial Day this year. I know it's a hard day/weekend for you/family since Julie's death was on that weekend.My love and prayers are always with you.

Your Mom and her mother are/were both strong women. Your Mom looks GREAT to be 98. That is so NEAT---and the fact that she is still independent is just amazing...

Loved reading about your grandmother's life. Wow--what an amazing woman. Too bad she was gone before you were born. I had no grandmothers or grandfathers.. ALL of mine had died before I was born.. I get sad thinking about how much I missed in my life.

Hugs,
Betsy

DJan said...

I am impressed with what a fine post you've created here, Sally, to honor your loved ones no longer with you. I can see you in your mother's face. My mother died at 69, which does seem awfully young to me these days. I still miss her.

Jeanie said...

This was a poignant and fascinating post, Sally, one filled with deep passion for those loved, those who made a difference. Like you, my grandmother (mom's) played a big role in my life although I never knew her as, like yours, she died before I was born. Funny how people can influence us despite lack of physical presence.

As a kid I always decorated the graves with my mom and it's something Rick and I do to this day (although this year we are doing it next week, closer to "real" memorial day and also a weekend we are in town. He has come to know those he never met through those visits. A time I cherish.

Sending hugs. I know your Julie anniversary is especially tough and I am glad you were able to have some time to reflect this year.

troutbirder said...

The strings that tug the heart. Thanks Sally.

Jean said...

Lovely, moving post, Sally. I'd forgotten that your mother and I, and my mother, share the same first name. I don't use mine, since I've always been called by my middle name. My mother was "Bertie" to everyone.

Mike @ A Bit About Britain said...

I can't remember how I stumbled across your blog, working away from home and trying to catch up on comments on my own blog while I've got the time. Your words dragged me in; they could speak for so many. Your dignity is a lesson to all of us. I can't imagine, and don't want to, the pain of losing a child. We all have loved ones to remember, of course, but your words have a resonance. On the historical front, it was interesting to see, when visiting the USA, that civil war memorials predominate; here, across the Pond, it is WW1 & 2. The losses in Europe for those wars is sickening - millions of people. But can there be anything more terrible than a civil war - brother against brother - and it is still your worst conflict. For me, Elgar's Nimrod soothes.

Deb Shucka said...

What a lovely post, Sally. And what amazing stock you come from. Your grandmother was an amazing woman - I love that story. I love, too, that you had this day of solitude to visit with all those spirits who live in your heart. Sending you love.

Friko said...

You are a strong lady, a true and faithful successor to the women who came before you.