When I was a little girl, growing up in southeast Iowa, my parents and grandparents would drag me and my siblings to the cemetery to decorate graves.
At the time I thought, this is about a boring as life could get! Why should I care that some of old geezer died in the Civil War, or other conflict? Granted they were my relatives but, so what!
My dad would stand around looking at a grave and commiserate with some other relative he’d hauled along that day!
We’d place ball jars filled with flowers on their graves or whatever arrangement we had. Dad would step back, take a look and say, “I think he’d like that… don’t you, sis? I’d shake my head with approval and we’d move on to the next resting place of a Ross relative lost in battle.
And that’s the way it went, for years, even after I’d left for college and marriage. Whenever I’d come home we’d make a trip to the cemetery.
I never appreciated that tradition until I lost our beloved brother, Stan, in Vietnam.
October 20, 1969 is etched in my brain and branded on my heart for all time. Going to his grave site and placing flowers there, took on a whole new meaning.
I understood what my family had felt—the loss of a young life. A life snuffed out in its prime– never again to feel the earth of his homeland under his feet.
Never to fulfill his promise to a sweetheart he might have made a life with.
Never to accomplish those things he shared with us.
When I think of the magnitude of our country’s loss of men and women who died in the line of duty, it is beyond comprehension.
I am grateful that we had a body to bury. So many did not.
Grateful, that I have a place to go…to meditate–to remember my brother and his sacrifice.
It brings me to a spot of self-reflection. A time to comprehend the gift I’ve been given. FREEDOM!
Now I can thank them both.
My Dad, Russell Ross. Circa 1945