Planted Red Geraniums for Memorial Day

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, May 28, 1912:  Had to stay out in the rain this afternoon and therefore got a little wet. Ruth and I went up to Oakes’ this evening.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Yesterday I was in the McEwensville area for reasons unrelated to the diary.  On my way into town I passed the Watsontown Flea Market; and, on a whim, decided to stop to see if I could find any hundred-year-old issues of Ladies Home Journal.

No luck with the magazines, but a vender was selling red geraniums.

The geraniums reminded me of how my mother and I used to put red geraniums on the graves of deceased relatives for Memorial Day.

I haven’t put flowers on graves since I was a child; but–before I’d really thought things through–I’d purchased nine red geraniums.

I made a short detour to locate a shovel. I could only found a rusty old shovel, but I  decided that it would work. It probably was the same one I’d once used with my mother to plant geraniums.

I then headed to the McEwensville  Cemetery.

When I got to the cemetery I discovered that an uncle, aunt, or cousin had already planted a red geranium. (It’s interesting that we all decided to plant red geraniums. I guess it’s a family tradition.)

I began to plant flowers on the graves of my paternal grandparents (Helen–she’d dropped the “a” long before she died– and Raymond Swartz), maternal grandparents, and other relatives.

The old rusty shovel wobbled as I planted the flowers, but it didn’t break.

I rushed because I only had a few minutes before I was supposed to be elsewhere for lunch. But somehow it felt right.

It was humid and the temperatures were in the 80’s.  I started to sweat—but thought—I can’t be late, I’ve got to get this done quickly.

The last grave I got to was my mother’s. I rapidly planted the last two geraniums as the sweat beaded up on my forehead. I thought,  “I’m going to only be a couple minutes late.”

At that moment the sweat rolled off my forehead and into my eyes—and stinging tears caused by the sweat started flowing. I couldn’t see and I knew that I couldn’t drive.

I was going to be very late getting to lunch, but suddenly was grateful.

It was good to remember all of my ancestors who’d gone before me—my paternal and maternal grandparents, my mother  . . .

15 thoughts on “Planted Red Geraniums for Memorial Day

  1. Very touching story. You did the right thing.

    Thank you also for your nice comment on The Monumental Family project post. Our God is amazing. Only one story of several similar others. Have a good week.

  2. It’s wonderful that there’s a family tradition of red geraniums and that you had the opportunity to remember all your relatives in this way. What’s a few minutes late in this context?

  3. I agree, it’s wonderful that you had that thought, that tradition and still live in the area where your people are buried so you could carry it out.

  4. I don’t often go to the cemetery any more, either. But just last Friday I bought 3 red geraniums and planted them at my Grandparents and 1 bachelor Uncle’s graves. It’s a nice tradition.

  5. Sheryl, if it felt right, it was right. This is such a beautiful and touching story and I know that all of your relatives were with you in spirit. Sending you hugs today. xxx

  6. As my dad died before I was born, I just grew up going to the cemetery with my mother and putting flowers at my dad’s tombstone, albeit artificial ones. I still put flowers at his grave, but not nearly as often as when I was a child.

    1. It sounds like your mother had a very nice way of helping you learn about your father. The traditions of each family and cemetery are differ slightly from one another–but they all are so wonderful.

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