In Wilton Center, the township we lived in in Illinois, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend was special. We'd have Sunday School and then meet upstairs for the worship service, but after a quick song and some announcements, we'd leave. We'd get in our cars and drive down the road to the cemetery.
Along with the caravan there would be a couple big buckets full of water and carnations. Red, white or blue carnations. We'd gather near the flag pole and the minister would sometimes say a few words and then lead us in prayer.
The rest of the service was spent in distributing the carnations throughout the acres of graves. Everyone, smallest child to oldest adult would have a handful of carnations and we'd wander underneath the trees, out in the meadow area, beside ancient, weather-worn markers or shiny, sharp-edged stones and lay our carnations down as we desired.
Most of the congregation had generations of relatives buried there and those always received special attention. Stories were shared, as we walked, about those named on the headstones. Laughter floated around the grounds and children darted here and there, choosing where to lay their flowers.
I feel we avoid graveyards more now than ever and our children see them as strange, forbidden places. I also feel that is why our youth and culture is fascinated by the world of the undead - ghosts and vampires. We can try to sanitize death and avoid looking it in the face, but our hearts and souls feel the void.
Death is part of life - whether we like it or not.