Memorial Day will be celebrated Monday. Once again veterans of all ages, from many different conflicts, will be acknowledged and honored for their bravery in defending freedom for the citizens of our great United States of America.
There will be speeches and parades across this nation as veterans proudly wear their medals and hold ceremonies honoring the brave warriors who did not return after the conflicts were over.
I certainly enjoy these events, and often my eyes tear up when I see white-haired heroes and think how young they must have been when they put their lives on the line.
But every year my memory goes back to another place and another time when Memorial Day was called Decoration Day.
The place that is so etched in my memory is a little white church sitting upon a hillside in the mountains of western North Carolina — Ranger Baptist Church.
I fondly remember the one day each year when the little graveyard beside the church was adorned with new bright floral arrangements on each and every grave, and sometimes the congregation would have singing and dinner on the ground.
The first grave I recall being dug into this rocky ground was for a young soldier who lost his life in the Korean Conflict. He and one of my older cousins had been sweethearts, planning a life together after he served his time in the Army.
The next burial was a classmate of mine at the little country school we attended. He lost his life after being struck by an automobile speeding down the new highway that had been carved out of the mountains.
One by one, more graves were added to the little cemetery. My Grandpa and Grandma Fox lie beneath a double marble gravestone and other family members are resting around them.
After my family moved away from the mountains to the coast, anytime my parents planned a trip back home, my mother would shop for the most colorful arrangements she could find to place on the graves of her parents and her sister who rested near them.
Whenever I return to the mountains, my cousin Virginia and I always visit this little graveyard and share memories of our grandparents. She has two sets to visit. Her grandfather on her father’s side of the family donated the land on which this little church and cemetery were started, and he and his wife rest on there also.
I once thought my mother and father would be buried on this hillside, but Mother never shared the nostalgia my father and I felt for the mountains. She made it clear in no uncertain terms that she intended her final resting place to be at the beach. So my sweet parents are buried in a lovely graveyard not far from the coast she loved so much.
More graves have been added to the little cemetery over the years. I can no longer match all the names carved on the stones to faces I knew in the past.
The church is no longer painted white as a layer of brick has been added to the facade and more rooms have been added.
I don’t know if Decoration Day is still being recognized or if it has become an event left in the past.
I only know that a piece of my heart will always belong to that little churchyard
And, Mama, next time I visit the mountains, I will buy the brightest flowers I can find at Michaels and tell Grandma you sent them.