I wasn’t accurate when I wrote in my post yesterday that I went straight to Sachuest Point. On the way to the ocean, I stopped at the cemetery.

Whenever I return to my parents’ childhood home, my first stop is the cemetery. My grandparents on both sides of my family, my aunt and many relatives I never knew are buried in the cemetery on the way to the ocean. Both my parents can trace their families back to the 1600s and 1700s on this small island.

I stop first to visit my dad’s parents’ grave. I usually say a quick hello, let them know what I’ve been up to. I check on the flowers. Grandma liked pink so I usually put pink flowers on her grave.

And, of course, an American flag. As long as I can remember, both sides of my family have always flown the flag in front of their houses. And many men on both sides of my family have served in the Armed Forces…and in combat. My grandma’s brother is buried in Italy, where he died fighting in WWII. One day I’ll visit his grave so far from his island home.

Next I visit my mom’s parents’ grave. I barely knew my grandfather. He died when I was young. He was a fisherman and sang in the choir at Trinity Church (where my father also sang as a boy.) Mom remembers her father had a beautiful voice. He was a mason and served in the RI legislature.

Mom’s matriarchal line is strung with strong, progressive women. My mom’s mother’s mother was a suffragette and a reporter. My mom’s twin (my aunt and godmother) is buried near her parents.

In the summer, I had placed purple petunias on grandma and grandpa’s grave. And my aunt, who was a nurse and an avid gardener, got lavender, shasta daisies and a new set of tiny wind chimes. Her front and back porches were lined with all kinds of chimes. We figured that she’d like the sound.

And, both graves have flags.

Most of the summer flowers had faded. I decided to herald the arrival of fall.

Today I bought three bowling-ball size pumpkins from a local farm produce stand. Next I went looking for mums at a local nursery. (Yes, I spend my money at local, family businesses.)

I bought some sweet pink and white mums for dad’s parents’ grave. Gold and orange mums for mom’s parents. And a deep mauve mum for my mom’s sister’s grave.

At each grave, I cleaned the weeds and dead grasses away from the tombstone. I dug a hole, filled it with water, teased the tight roots on the newly liberated potted mum plant. I positioned and placed the plant then patted the dirt in place around the new addition. I watered again.

The Lakota Sioux have a prayer, Mitakuye Oyasin, that celebrates the connection between all living things. I believe strongly in this belief…that we are all connected and that all life is sacred and should be honored. When I visit my relatives and ancestors, I thank them for the life they’ve given me through the generations.

My parents and their parents and their parents’ parents grew up on the same island soil where they are buried. I was born on foreign soil and I have no home, no roots in the traditional sense. So it makes sense and makes me feel connected to return to my ancestors. It grounds me. And makes me happy to remember them.

So many of their stories are already lost. Those who kept the stories before me took much of the family history and secrets with them to their graves.

Note: When I did a Web search about the practice of visiting graves, I found a couple of interesting links about the practice in different cultures.

http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/commemoration/visit.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qingming_Festival

http://www.colorado-cemeteries.com/cemetery.html

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