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It is interesting to drive past the cemetery on Walnut Street in Rogers. Since I bowl on a regular basis at the Rogers Bowling Center, I make multiple trips past it every year.

I think I first began to really notice it when, on a windy day, many of the artificial floral bouquets had blown across the street and were collecting against the curb. I thought, how sad that these flowers placed on graves in memory of a loved one had been carried away in a brisk breeze. I hoped that someone would gather them up and return them to their rightful place at the graves.

Recently when I drove past it seemed every headstone had flowers. They were in vases designed to fit into the ground and seemed to be in every color. While it created a colorful sight, it also caused me to wonder about this custom and what lay behind it. My parents are buried in a cemetery, along with most of my mothers family, in Fullton, Wisconsin so I don't have the opportunity to visit them often. However, in years gone by, I had a cousin who went every Memorial Day to visit her family members, many of whom were also mine. I know she cleaned up the plots, pruned the growing greenery and placed flowers at each headstone. Not able to go with her to help, I sent money and asked her to include my folks in her visit. She was a wonderful representative and I knew my parent's graves looked as well kept as any of the others. I really didn't think about it much beyond the fact that they were being cared for.

The last time I drove past the cemetery in Rogers and saw all the flowers I began to wonder, what do they really represent? Are they a way to say "I'm still thinking about you and I miss you" or, are they a way to celebrate that those who were beneath the headstones have gone on to a better place. I have not had to deal with the death of many family members close to me and none around here. Geographical distance has made it easier for me to make the necessary adjustments. Because I don't see the headstones on a regular basis I am able to think of them being with God and not in the ground, but I don't think of them as often as I would if they were here.

It is interesting that when we had the headstones for my parents placed in the Wisconsin cemetery, we were able to have ours created at the same time. Now, on the rare occasion when we do go to visit, my husband and I have our headstones right next to my folks. It creates rather an unusual feeling to see both Bruce's and mine with everything there except the final date. However, when we had them set, the men always took ultimate care of their women and so even in eternity they are on the outside and my mother and I are cradled in between, protected forever by the men they loved.

The next time I visit the Fulton cemetery, I will take flowers but they will be to celebrate the beauty of being with God. That doesn't mean I didn't love them, it only means that they are truly in a better place and that is a blessing we can all look forward to.

• • •

Jan Burgess moved to Bella Vista in 1995. She considers each day a gift -- although some are more fun to open than others. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 06/07/2017

Print Headline: The Celebration of Life gone by

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