The end of May is an interesting time for me. Lots of birthdays in our family during the end of May—including my youngest son and my father, who share the same birthday. My own birthday is in the first week of June, but somehow I hardly think about it, concentrating so much on everything else going on during the end of May. My sister was born in the end of May, just a few days before Memorial Day. She died in July, just a day before my other sister’s birthday, when she was 33. She’d have turned 49 this year.
When we lived in Washington, I made it a tradition every Memorial Day weekend to visit the graves of my sister, my brother, and my nephew. Not really because it was Memorial Day, but because it was my sister’s birthday. My brother died of cancer 7 months before my sister died, when he was 34. They’re buried near each other in the same cemetery. Also close by is the grave of my nephew, who died when he was 2 or 3 (I was 10).
Since I’ve moved away I can’t visit their graves anymore. But I’d like to continue to do something to honor their memory. I’m just not sure what.
My sister was schizophrenic. She lived in halfway houses most of the time because if she was on her own she’d go off her meds and end up in trouble. She was the most generous person I’ve ever known. I’m sure it was partly her mental illness that made her so. She’d give away everything she’d have—coffee, cigarettes—and then call my parents to ask them to get her some more. She’d buy bags of clothes from the thriftstore she worked in and bring them over for me. (Of course they never fit.) She was always giving and giving.
The day after her funeral, my parents went back to the cemetery, and they distributed most of the flowers from her graves to other graves nearby. That’s how she would’ve wanted it.
I’d like to do something in memory of my brother, sister and nephew next weekend, but I’m not sure what. Maybe I’ll go to a cemetery nearby and visit the graves of people I never knew. Maybe I’ll drive up north and visit my grandmother’s grave, which I’ve never seen. For sure I’ll take this bag of clothes my kids have grown out of to the thriftstore down the street.
For those who have lost loved ones, what do you to do honor their memory?