Monday, May 25, 2009

In Memoriam

Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to commemorate US men and women who died while in military service. It used to be called Decoration Day and was first enacted to honor Union soldiers of the Civil War. It was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any military war or action. [via]

We of course, usually expand it's meaning. I don't mean we as in me - I mean the country - people - the general sentiment. We honor and revere those who were lost in this way, but we also honor those who served the country and are still with us (and also on Veteran's Day) and we generally remember those who have gone before us whether they were in the military or not. Many people go to the cemetery on Memorial Day to place flowers on the graves of their dearly departed. I remember doing this with my grandparents and my Aunt Betty and Patty a few times. I know we also have All Saints Day to remember those people, (and every day in our thoughts) but it seems Memorial Day conjures up remembrances all around.

So, today's post will cover the "larger" observance of the day. First, I want to share with you a piece of music that uses a poem I find so fitting for Memorial Day. It is not that old of a piece - it was written to be included in the ending credits of the movie We Were Soldiers where, when I heard it, I cried. It has quickly gained acceptance and use in the military community since it's writing. It was used as part of Ronald Reagan's funeral ceremony. It is called Mansions of the Lord.

Here are the words:

To fallen soldiers let us sing,

Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing,

Our broken brothers let us bring

To the Mansions of the Lord.

No more bleeding, no more fight,

No prayers pleading through the night,

Just divine embrace, eternal light

In the Mansions of the Lord.

Where no mothers cry and no children weep,

We will stand and guard though the angels sleep,

Oh through the ages safely keep

The Mansions of the Lord.

It is traditionally sung by a men's chorus, which makes it even that more meaningful, I think. Here are some links where you can hear/see performances of it:

A Recording from the We Were Soliders Soundtrack

(It moves on past this after about 2 mins)

NPR Recast from Ronald Reagan's Funeral

A Very Moving Photo Montage with Music
If you can watch this without a tear in your eye...

And, on a personal remembrance, on days like today, I remember many of my relatives and friends who have passed out of this world. But, I most often remember my grandparents, because they were so central in my life as a child. I tried to find some photos of all of them, but of course here in Texas I don't have access to the "family albums" that are in Indiana. So, I have a few to share, but not perhaps the ones I would share if I were choosing from all that exist.

This is an important note though - I know in this day of digital media, our future generations, if the media all survives in some format, will have more photos than they can possibly even process through. But, it is important to point out that you, no matter how much you hate getting your photo taken, that YOU should GET IN THE PICTURE, because someone someday will be glad to have that photo. So, get over what you look like or how you feel and take the photos with the people you love. Just think - you might look better today - certainly younger - than you will five years from now - and you'll look back on that photo and like it! I'll try to follow my own advice. Ahem.

Ok, so here are a few photos and remembrances of my grandparents.

First - Grandma Irene and Grandpa Frank - I realize I have NO PHOTOS of Grandpa Frank in my house. So, we will go with a few I found of Grandma Irene. And when I'm next in Indy I'm going to remedy that situation.

Grandma Irene was a twin.
That's her on the left.

Grandma Irene lived about 45 minutes from us when I was growing up - close enough that we saw her regularly, but far enough away that you didn't just "pop over". Which meant, when we were kids, we'd go spend the night. Not that I didn't spend the night with my other grandparents, but going to Grandma Irene's was sort of like a trip. I remember Grandma playing with us, doing pretty much anything we wanted to do - she lived in a tiny little town, so we'd walk to the grocery store and to the playground and on a big day, we'd go "into town", which was the next "bigger" town about 3 miles away. But, you didn't do that just any day. She would climb to the top of the jungle gym with us. She was up for pretty much anything, which we loved.

Grandpa Frank liked to fish. We weren't so big on fishing as kids because the way Grandpa Frank did it (and maybe the way everyone does it) there was just a lot of getting up early and sitting around to be done. Grandma would go with us though, and make it a lot of fun. Grandpa Frank used joke with us a lot. He used to "challenge" us to impossible tasks - like putting something in our mouth without bending our elbow. Stuff like that.

Grandma, Dad and Me
When I was in college on a trip to Florida to see Uncle Ray.

Grandma had wild raspberries that grew behind her house. We'd go back there and pick them to our heart's delight. She picked them and made jam, pies, etc.

We used to write her letters and put as little on the address as possible to see if they'd get to her in her small town. She was "Box 2". So, we'd write "Grandma, Box 2, Waldron" and it'd get there. We even just wrote, "Grandma, Waldron" on one, and it got there. But, I think at that point the postmaster knew our handwriting. She was very good at writing us letters too. I cherish those letters.

Grandma liked Liberace. If he was on the TV, you better be quiet. And until I was older her house had no air conditioning. And even then, it was only in the living room. In Indiana, though, this was not so bad. A fan would make it pleasant. She had one phone, on the wall in the kitchen, and one bathroom, and her house had a cellar. When she re-did her front room, they found wallpaper that could be dated to the last part of the 19th century.

Grandma in front of her big frame house, probably on Mother's Day.
I was going to crop this up, but I like that you can see the house, so I left it.

We usually spent my birthday in her small town, because there was a parade and a festival every year. We were there to celebrate the 4th of July with all the extended relatives, and at some point in the day, we'd have some cake for my birthday, you know, for dessert. I think that's why I like to spend my birthday with lots of people celebrating the holiday, and not really celebrating my birthday. That's what seems right to me.

Grandma was a great cook. She used a lot of bacon fat. She liked to eat the turkey gizzard. Her homemade noodles were to die for. And her peanut butter fudge. And, she loved for all her kids to go to church with her on Mother's Day. I loved Grandma Irene and Grandpa Frank and I'm so glad they were my grandparents, and I miss them.

You'll remember this photo from last November...that's my Nana at age three, third from the right.

My Nana and Paw-Paw were also very special to me. For the first two years of my life, Nana babysat me while my mom went to work. And, we spent a lot of time over at their place after that too. We lived pretty close to them, especially when I was very young. I used to have conversations with my Nana about how when I was older I was going to ride my bike to her house. When I stayed with Nana, I wanted to drink coffee like she did - she'd pour me a glass of milk and add one teaspoon of coffee to it - just enough that it would change the color slightly. I think that's way I like coffee to this day. With a lot of milk in it - but not quite that much. ;)

Paw-paw and Nana when they were very young.

I love this photo of them - it's actually a slide we found a few years back when we went through a bunch of Paw-Paw's slides. This photo was taken before they had kids - maybe even before they were married. It's just such an easy going look, like they're having a nice time. Look at the old cars in the background. And, Nana's ric-rac on her dress and her jewelry. Divine. I have this photo in a frame in my house. I love it.

Nana and Paw-Paw had a big yard with a lot of trees - and a lot of flowers. So, when you went to their house, you "helped" with the yardwork - watering or feeding the flowers or picking up sticks or nuts. And, sometimes, Paw-Paw would let you ride the mower with him or in the leaf collector behind the mower. Great fun.

The most "recent" photo I could find - that's me on the right.
So, not so recent.

Nana was very artistic and crafty. We were always doing something around her house that had to do with making a craft or cooking or something. Or playing games - they liked to play games. Boy, did they. And, Paw-Paw could add up scores in his head like nobody's business. I did not inherit this trait.

I used to go with Paw-Paw to buy milk at Linder's Dairy, and while we were there he'd let me have an ice cream cone. I always got peach ice cream. It was so good. We'd sit there in the dairy and eat our ice cream together. When I rode in their big boat of a car, they let me sit on the "hump" in between them in the front seat. No one worried about that not being safe back then. I survived.

Paw-Paw would tickle you until you couldn't stand it any longer, and Nana would read books to you over and over. We were indulged as only grandparents can do. And they were great at it. I'm so glad they, too, were my grandparents. I loved them very much and I miss them.

So, on this Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember those who have lost their lives in defense of this great country, have served or are serving in our Armed Forces, and also remember those special to you. I know I will.

See you tomorrow.


  1. Thank you for posting about Grandma Irene. We drove through Waldron this past weekend (on our way to Cincinnati because 44 is shut down to tear down the last remaining iron bridge :(...) anyway...we took a route that took us right through "downtown", I saw Grandma's house, the store, the high school and I just kept thinking about 4th of July at Grandma's and how much I miss those days! I'm sure Mike got sick of hearing it, but I kept going over how the day would go. Parade...flea market...lunch at grandma's...freeze for a while in the front room...back to the flea market out in the heat...maybe walk down the train tracks to the next town...fireworks. Childhood memories like that are priceless! Thanks again for sharing!!

  2. Hi Sweatheart
    I will try and post another comment and first try loging in as Dad but if that fails (as I expect it will), I will use anonymous.
    I think Grandma Irene would have loved looking and your blog...all of it and this "IN Memoriam", would have surely made her smile.
    I enjoyed the way you honored our do this vet proud. I was moved by some of the vide and saved one to share with some fellow vets. I love you and the many aspects of your life that that you share on your blog



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