Monday, May 28, 2007

An Afternoon at the Cemeteries

Yesterday afternoon, my 16-year-old daughter accompanied me to two local cemeteries so that we could honor the deceased of our families. I had planned to go on Saturday, which was a gorgeous warm day, but errands--including purchasing a new flag for the holiday and a bouquet of roses for the purpose of distributing them at the graves--took up most of my day. Sunday arrived with strong gales of wind, so strong I dared not put up my new flag for fear of bending the aluminum pole or snagging the banner on the gutters above. Thunderstorms were forecast for the late afternoon and evening, so I decided it was now or never.

The first cemetery we visited was Riverside Memorial Park, where a special little boy now rests in peace: Brandon Tyrone Chapman, a special-needs student I worked with for four years, who was like a second son to me. He is buried underneath some pines not far from the Spokane River. The cemetery was beautifully decorated, with hundreds of memorial flags fluttering along the roadsides and graves brightly trimmed with real and silk flowers, flags, and pinwheels. At the entrance, throngs of people milled, visiting Heritage Funeral Home, which normally has a historic display for the public every Memorial Day weekend. Last year, Ulysses S. Grant had been the focus; this year was Elvis, so I did not go in (I like his music, but I had hoped for a more "historical" figure). Classic cars were being shown in the parking lot, and I took a quick shot with my camera while my daughter picked up some free pizza from a nearby booth (yes, it's quite an event!).

We then crossed the road to Greenwood Memorial Terrace, where we noticed a large American flag was posted near the monument of Chief Spokane Garry. We drove up to the first terrace where a large Midkiff monument marks the lot where George Henry, his wife Arzella (Glasgow), and their son Samuel C. Midkiff are buried. I've done a little research on this family, and can trace George back to Kentucky, but how he may be related to my husband is still a mystery. There are no descendants; their only son Samuel died in 1918, so our family has "adopted" the graves to clean and decorate them on Memorial Day. My daughter remarked that Samuel was only 16 when he died (her own age), and I told her he had probably died in the Influenza Epidemic.

We then went up to the top terrace, where two of my cousins, Christopher Wrex Pierson Zaagsma and Caren Jeanne "Carrie" Pierson Zaagsma, are buried in the Inspiration block. We stayed for a while at their graves, while I told my daughter the stories of my cousins, what their personalities were like, memories of special times together, and how they had died. Then we went over to nearby Honor Lawn, where some distant Midkiff cousins are buried. I shared memories with Missy about Betty Lou(Midkiff) Bryant, a petite woman who had researched the Midkiff family in the area and had contacted us about 18 years ago to try to fit us into the family tree (she was my father-in-law's second cousin). Together, she and I organized the first local Midkiff Family Reunion in 1990. Betty's husband, George Wesley Bryant, is buried next to her; a salty-tongued WW2 veteran, he had worked on the Grand Coulee Dam as an ironworker. On the other side of Betty rests her brother, George Vernon Midkiff, a Navy veteran whose life was cut tragically short by an automobile accident.

When we were done with the graves of family and friends, we returned to the first level, where the graves of many Civil War veterans are situated around the Grand Army of the Republic monument. We chose graves that had no flowers or flags (and sadly, there were many) on which to lay the last of our roses. I took photographs to upload to Find A Grave. There was a nest in a pine above us and a baby bird fell out, fluttering around. My daughter was very worried, but I assured her the bird's mother would return as soon as we left, and that the good thing was there didn't appear to be any predators in the area.

We returned home tired from our outing in the wind, but satisfied in having enjoyed our time together, knowing our loved ones had been honored.

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