Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, has been celebrated in this country for over 140 years. The practice of decorating the graves of those who died while serving our country began after the American Civil War, and first commemorated those individuals who died during the war. By the twentieth century though Memorial Day came to honor and remember all Americans who had died in military service.
Flowers remembering those who have died while serving our country.
In addition to honoring those who died in military service, in the small town in Iowa where I grew up, Memorial Day was also an opportunity to remember all of our loved ones who had died, and flowers, wreaths and other decorations were placed on most graves in our local cemetery. Over the years I’ve spent many hours wandering through cemeteries, absorbing the rich stories and history they share with us.
The Garden Of Love.
Just a few blocks away from me, here in Minneapolis, is Lakewood Cemetery. Founded in 1871, it was designed after the spacious, rural cemeteries of nineteenth century France, and is by far one the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve seen - in fact it is known as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in our country.
Flags lining the road to the Memorial Chapel.
The Memorial Chapel designed after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
One of the notable structures in Lakewood is its Byzantine-styled Memorial Chapel which was designed after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, and has been placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. In addition to the chapel, there are commemorative gardens, mausoleums, and monuments to founding Minnesota and Minneapolis families as well as local and national politicians.
The stairs leading to the Memorial Community Mausoleum and Columbarium.
The Community Mausoleum and its Reflection Pool.
A walk through Lakewood is indeed a walk through history, and offers an educational experience second to none. On this day when we honor those men and women who died in military service to our country, and remember our own loved ones who have passed away, I encourage you to visit your local cemetery, and to experience the rich history that surrounds you.
Here are the graves of two beloved Minnesota politicians buried in Lakewood.
U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila, who were killed in a tragic plane crash in 2002 while he was still in office.
U.S. Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey.
Just a few of the interesting monuments in Lakewood.
An interesting take on the "Stars and stirpes."
This infant's marker is dwarfed by the forest of monuments surrounding it.
This lovely lady is entirely encased in glass between the pillars of this monument.
Flour milling was a huge part of Minneapolis' story, and this obelisk erected at Lakewood in 1885 commemorates the 18 men killed in the infamous Washburn "A" Mill explosion in 1878. The explosion, which rocked the city like an earthquake, engulfing six mills in flames, remains to this day as one of the worst disasters in Minneapolis' history.
Memorial Day Weekend has long been recognized as the "unofficial" beginning of summer, and while we are still transitioning through winter and spring - we had snow just three weeks ago - there are signs that summer is on it's way. One of those signs is that the sailboats have returned to Lake Calhoun and are ready and waiting for the summer fun!!!
Today would have been my Mom’s 88th birthday. Because it falls so close to Mother’s Day I’m finding myself remembering her, the many traits I’ve inherited from her, and the ways that she has influenced me.
At her funeral in 2000, the priest in his homily dwelt on how gracious she was, and I think that was an appropriate observation. She grew up on a farm in rural Iowa, and never moved away from the state, but from that upbringing she developed an amazing sense of hospitality.
This is the earliest photo I have of my Mom and her two brothers
From early on I can remember our home being filled with relatives and friends during the Holidays - New Year’s Day was an especially memorable time. On New Year’s Day the extended family gathered at our home to dine on roast goose and all the fixings. What I remember most about those celebrations is the large number of tables that were shoved together, extending our dining room table so that all would fit. At this table three or four generations of people would gather and share memories, stories, escapades, laughter, and love. We handed down “our story” while at same time created new stories.
Mom as a flower girl for a wedding
As time went on, the extended gathering became smaller and fewer, but that sense of hospitality stayed intact. If family friends, or friends of my siblings and I, were in need of a place to celebrate the Holidays, they were always welcomed around my Mom’s table. She was always ready to add an extra leaf to the table, set another place setting, or if need be, add another table. Her philosophy, although she wouldn’t have thought of it this way, was that there was always room for one more.
Mom's First Communion Photo
As I get older, I recognize so many of her tendencies in myself, perhaps none more then the hospitality around the dinner table. I host all of the Holiday dinners for my friends, with a few extra dinners scattered throughout the year as well. Oftentimes, my guests are friends who don’t have relatives in town, or other places to be. Over time, we have built our own traditions, and have become our own welcoming family. I know that this sense of welcoming is definitely a trait that I’ve inherited from my Mom. Her lessons of inclusivity have stuck with me over the years, and I have tried to take them beyond the dinner table and out into my everyday life.
This photo of Mom was taken just a few years before she died
As I remember my Mom today on her birthday, and again on Mother’s Day, I treasure that the word people used to describer her was “gracious,” but more importantly I hope I am able to extend that same gracious welcome to others as I go about my day.