I put the two wreaths in my car. The intended destination was the cemetery to decorate my Dad’s and “bonus” Dad’s graves. For years, my mother religiously put a wreath on her parent’s and brother’s resting place. It was a tradition of sorts. Wrapped in warm jackets and struggling to shove the wire legs of the stand holding the greenery into the cold, hard ground was almost laughable. That was after driving around trying to locate it which seemed to be a yearly tradition as well. And then we would stand there staring at the block of stone that now represents our loved ones.
So, I ventured out to take on the task. Mom wanted to go, but with the ground being so soft and muddy, I talked her out of it. Part of me thinks she is grateful. There is always an emotional component for her as she gazes at the tombstones, so I was happy to relieve her of this particular duty. As I left she said, “I can’t wait for you to see your father’s new plants around his place.” She recently had it endowed and they planted some new bushes around “his place”. Made it sound like a new condo instead of a block of stone.
One time, I joked that there should be a decorating contest at the cemetery and people could vote on their favorite one. Apparently no one thought it was amusing, but I still think it might be successful. Then as I drive through, I am baffled at the tasteless decor. Tinsel on tombstones? Plastic crap? Our tombstones would win for sure. Yes, my humor can be questionable, but hey, I have to keep it light.
Our wreaths are beautiful greenery with bright red bows. Tasteful and simple, my mother has a local florist do them every year. As I ease into the cemeteries, I turn of my radio. Not sure why, but I do it every time. As if I am worried about disturbing someone. I position each wreath in their place and stand there contemplating whether I like where I put it or not. The wreaths are moved 3 or 4 times before I am satisfied. I try to be reverent, but reality reminds me that it is merely a box. They are probably living it up in the next realm not remotely appreciative of the greenery decorating their slab of stone.
So my duty was complete and their tombstones decorated. I called Mom and told her “Dad’s place looks great. I love the plantings you added,” with no sarcasm added as she sometimes gets annoyed by odd sense of humor.
The questions still lingers…..is this gesture one of regret or simply honoring our loved ones during the holiday? Perhaps it is layered with both. Perhaps we do these things to simply acknowledge their mere presence in our lives while atoning for our lack of patience, compassion or what we feel was missing while they were with us. Whatever the reason, the holidays are certainly a time to reflect but to not reside there. One’s presence is a present to the people in our lives 365 days of the year.