Sunday, December 21, 2008

celebrating loved ones ...

It was only 5 when I got to the cemetery yesterday, but the sun was already starting to set and the cemetery was dark by the time I'd trimmed the flowers I'd brought, filled the vases with water, cleaned and polished the headstone and said my prayers. Too late and too dark to take any photos, I thought. As I drove down the lanes, though, I noticed something that made me stop and turn the car back around for a second look. Several of the decorated sites had lights on their trees! What a cheery glow they gave off, clear lights on some, colored lights on others. Utterly delightful and Christmasy!

I love the cemetery at Christmas! To see the care and love and memory that people still have for their loved ones who have gone before absolutely FILLS my heart with joy! "Gone but not forgotten" aren't just words on a tombstone; these people are remembered with love and respect, with joy and with humor, with the love of Chistmases shared. It always moves me deeply.

I went back today so I could get my pictures. The cemetery was crowded with cars and people; trees were being set up, garland strung around little candy cane fences, entire families, young and old gathered together to celebrate Christmas memories. Some had food; many had brought chairs to sit and remember and talk and laugh together. It's all very festive, cemetery or not.

I saw three Asian women with their very old mother taking turns taking pictures, so I went up and offered to take a picture of them all together near the tree they'd set up. then I roamed the cemetery admiring all the Christmas decor and the creativity put into these holiday memorials. One had a huge banner: "Merry Christmas, Grandma!" with family photos laminated onto the banner. There were angels and snowmen, Santas and mangers.

There are a couple of favorites that I enjoy seeing each year. One family puts up a fake fireplace and hangs "stockings" all around with the names of family members. It's good to see new stockings added through the years.

The big cross below is new this year. Looks like a lot of effort went into making it and getting it set upright.

Isn't this a fantastic tree? I love that large angel on top, looking over everything. I'm sure she's smiling, knowing that those we love never really leave us, but are celebrated still with love and with joy for their presence in our lives.

Let us cherish those we love each and every day, in heaven and on earth.

Merry Christmas, Mom!


dec0r8or said...

Wow, I don't think I've seen anything like that in cemetery's around here, Rose! Maybe it's not allowed? It really is quite spectacular. I'm glad you went back today to get the photos to share with us.

As for me, I've never been one to visit the cemetery much. I've stopped at my sister's grave when driving through the town she's in, but I don't make special trips there. My feeling has always been that my loved ones are not THERE, they're in my heart, so visiting the grave site doesn't do for me what it does for others, I guess. But it is nice to go and see evidence that others have visited and left tiny remembrances. It's nice to know that others are thinking about my sister too... :)

Connie said...

Rose, thanks for sharing your pictures. I haven't seen anything like that either. Everyone must do what makes them feel better. I know my love ones are not there but I still find comfort in going there. Unfortunately, my family is scattered. Most are in southern Illinois but I have two in California. I wished I could go there and sit. Its peaceful and I find very moving. When I had the opportunity to visit Sacajawea's grave site in Wyoming, it was very emotional for me. Different cultures do different things and it was quiet unique to visit a cemetery where Native Americans were buried. They leave things for their love ones and each grave is marked off with rocks/fence or something surrounds the perimeter of the grave. I hope to visit her grave site again this summer and have bought something to leave there. Thanks again, my friend, for sharing with us.

Rose said...

Sharon and Connie - I really love all this holiday decor gathered in one place like this, sparkling in the sun. Like you, I believe Mom's spirit is with me; only the corporal body she used lies here, no longer needed. But the cemetery is a beautiful, special place to me; it gives my spirit a lift to see evidence of others' love everywhere I look. All these lives so publicly celebrated. I have to admit I take a certain pride in having mom's headstone polished til it gleams, so others can see this is a woman who is loved still. It makes me a little sad to see the neglected headstones; I figure their people may have moved or passed on, so I'll sometimes polish a stranger's headstone, feeling it's a loving thing to do, and it's something my mom would've encouraged, too. I love to roam around collecting a glimmer of people's stories. That giant "Merry Christmas, Grandma" banner really moved me with joy.

Rose said...

Connie - I remember how moved you were and how you felt such a strong connection when you visit Sacajawea's grave site. Tribal people are so "of the earth" and the natural rhythms of birth and death, and celebration of both. I heard someone say the other day that it's as much honor to be present when a person comes into the world as it is to be present when they leave it. I'd love to see Sacajawea's site, too.

PAT said...

We usually have flowers in the vases of J's parents and brother's headstones for all the holidays at the Sacred Heart Cemetery here in town. I've never seen the cemetery decorated in this beautiful way,though. My niece tends the grave of our mother, since my sister and I live many miles away. We always feel the presence of our parents, especially this time of year.

Lady Prism said...

Merry Merry Christas Rose! I just couldn't let this day pass without greeting you!

I gotta' get back to the kitchen...I am eternally in the kitchen ha!ha!ha!

Enjoy and God Bless You!

dec0r8or said...

I'm sorry to break in again with something so inane, but I really DO know that the plural of cemetery is cemeteries. I don't know what came over me with that apostrophe! Ack! lol

Carry on!

Merry Christmas, Rose. You may have inspired me to go visit my sister's grave site tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I have not seen anything like this either Rose, those have never visited a cemetary believe it or not. I've been to funerals, but never back to visit. Maybe someday I'll see something like this. Thank you for the pictures and an unusual twist on decorating for the holidays.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.


Britt-Arnhild said...

Merry Christmas Rose.

Amber said...

Rose, that was a very touching post! I agree...wonderful to celebrate the lives of our loved ones in some shape or fashion!

Anonymous said...

Rose, after your comment on my blog I checked your blog once again, and stumbled across one of the many heart-warming posts. This post is so special because almost everyone can relate to the loss of a loved one. Celebrating the holidays after a death can be very difficult and to see that people are still celebrating the lives of those they cherished the holidays with is inspiring.

The pictures are beautiful, and your observations are much appreciated as they brightened my night!