Today is Memorial Day. I think of being little and living in Nutrioso and my Grandma Rogers cutting lilacs and iris and putting them in a jar or vase and us taking them across the road to Grandpa's grave. Taking care of the graves on Memorial Day was a big thing in both families as I grew up. We were taught that you don't walk on the graves, that you are respectful of the graves. You pulled weeds and took all faded flowers off the grave and then put on new fresh flowers to honor your loved ones.
The Rogers family has our own cemetary next to Uncle Richard's place in Nutrioso that was started in 1947 when Grandpa Rogers died when daddy was a boy of 14 years. The next person buried there was Grandpa's younger brother, Albert who died just a few days after I was born in 1955. It is there that my Uncle Jimmy was buried when I was 9; Charlene & Steve's still-born baby was buried there when I was still in high school and then in 1979 I buried my own Damara there. Don and I made her head stone from a sand stone rock we found "across the hill" close to the Nutrioso saw mill. He was so proud of that headstone and it looked nice. It is starting to wear some now, and one day I will have to buy a real head stone to put there. Tad wants her sand stone head stone left there until there is nothing left. In 1981 my Aunt Lela was next to be buried there, then in 1984 my Grandma. In 1989 Shawn McCall, Don in 1996, then in 2002 Aunt Marie and most recently, Kaelsy and Steven in 2005. Our family cemetary is a little spot of sacred ground that holds the earthly remains and pieces of our hearts forever more. I love the view to the north east - first the green fields and then Escudilla.
This is where one day, I will be buried, too.
Down below (north of) Nutrioso, out on a flat little spot across Nutrioso Creek is the Nutrioso Cemetary. That is where my great grandma (1907) and great grandpa (1942) Sharp are buried, some Sharp cousins, some Hamblin and Mangum relatives. That is where in 1952, mama's 17 year old brother, Ralph, was buried. In 1964, "Papa", my great grandfather Stover was buried there and in 1977 Donnie & Ginger's Daniel Gilliam was buried there. My Uncle Ray died in 1984 and then Grandpa in 1998 and Grandma in 1998 and Aunt Elaine in 2006.
It may seem odd, that I have dates but this is what I was taught growing up, we knew our family members. We called uncles and aunts "uncle" or "aunt". I had the blessing of growing up with my Grandma Rogers, my Grandma and Grandpa Gilliam, my great grandmother "Nary" Stover and of knowing briefly, my great grandma Sarah Gilliam and great grandpa "Papa" Stover. Family was and is important to my relatives on both sides. We wept with those the wept and we mourned with those that mourned. I remember when Damara passed away, my hard working uncles and aunts all coming to her graveside service, offering love and peace and security to a young mother who just lost her first born baby girl. I remember those same uncles and aunts coming to Don's funeral and/or graveside service and again offering a grieving little family love, peace and security. I in turn have made an effort to give back what I have been given.
Those two sacred pieces of ground are and will always be a part of who I am. I miss my family members that I knew. I anxiously await the time to meet those I did not.
I hope that after I am gone, my kids will continue to take care of the graves, not just "ours" but of all of their ancestors. I hope they teach and tell their children about the good, honest, hard-working men and women that rest there. I hope they loving tell their children about their grandpa Don, and instill in them the desire to get to know about the four short days of their Aunt Damara's life. I want the grandkids to remember being young and taking flowers to the graves.
Today, mama and I went and put flowers on the graves. It rained, it hailed and then it let up long enough for us to jump and run to the graves. I didn't get to spend the time there I wanted and needed because of the rain, but I am so glad we went. Listening to mama as we drove, she misses her mama and daddy. She loved her brother, Ralph and misses him. She misses Uncle Ray and Aunt Elaine. She is proud of Papa's veteran service during World War 1; a bright new flag was placed at his headstone and waved freely in the breeze. She is happy that the people that bought Grandpa and Grandma's place in Eagar love it and are keeping it up. She said it didn't seem possible that Damara has been gone almost 30 years and Don almost 13 years.
Today I love my mama and my daddy and am so glad that they taught me well in my youth. I am thankful today for the opportunity to visit the graves of family members and think of them. I am grateful today for men and women throughout the world that have made the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives in helping to give others what we have here in America - freedom. Freedom is not free and hopefully I remember this often.
Hope all is well for all of you. Love to all.
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