Sometimes I seriously think that somehow my Grampa Krueger somehow instilled in me the passion of remembering and taking care of those who have gone on before us. I don’t remember him, I was about a year-a-and-half when he passed, he’d been sick for years and there isn’t so much as a single picture of me with him.
My mom and her siblings grew up in the small town that I grew up running around in while dad was playing cards at Ruth’s Cafe. One of the things I loved doing was walking through the cemetery in The Hill, spent many hours as a child just walking around there. Back then I didn’t know that my grandfather had been sexton of that very cemetery for many years. My mother and her siblings grew up mowing and weeding there, doing all the work that needed to be done for Memorial Day, my uncle helped my grandfather in hand digging the graves. There’s a connection there that I feel my grandfather somehow instilled in me from above, my gift from him.
Over the past week I’ve gone from family plot to family plot in a two county area, putting up flowers, trimming any weeds that were missed by the keepers. It’s something I feel drawn to do. Kaet and Kirk don’t do the cemetery thing, Leo doesn’t mind and at least pretends to be interested in my stories and always asks how this person and that person is related and how. Can’t explain the feeling I get when I show him the grave of his three times great grandfather or grandmother. They are those who helped mold who we are even if we never knew them.
I tell stories often, if there’s a connection that brings up a story, I’m telling it. I personally cherish the memories of my grandparents telling me the occasional story of when they were a kid and pass them on, keeping the story and the history alive and sending them on down the line.
Yesterday we were going to where my mom’s parents and many of her father’s side are buried when Leo mentioned a friend of mine who had killed himself when we were in high school and about his worship of the devil. Leo had only remembered a small portion but something triggered his memory, so when we were done with the family we went to see Keith. He was one of those great guys that would do anything for a friend, he was one of the guys who got me out of freshman initiation way back my first year in high school, something that was still done at our school in the late 80’s. His aunt was and still is a good family friend and his cousin is like a little brother to me. I recall talking to him a few months before he died, he’d said something about believing in the devil but not God. He would not agree that if he believed their was one that there had to be the other. Looking back, it was an odd conversation, something that didn’t occur to me at the time. After his death it came out that he’d been in a cult, never had a clue. I like to tell me kids these stories because I see them as a teaching tool.
We walked around a while longer, pointed out a couple guys who my cousin had graduated high school with who had lost their lives to drugs and alcohol and getting into a vehicle and driving, one guy a few years ahead of me in school who had driven drunk his first year in college. Learning tools.
Walking back to the car I felt drawn and wound up finding the grave of a man who was like a father to me, he’d passed this last Christmas Day. Figure it wasn’t coincedence, Gerry wanted me to know he was there, this a part of the cemetery I normally never walk in.
Today we went to where many of my paternal grandmother’s family and Kirk’s paternal side are buried. First stop was Kirk’s great-uncle who lost his life in World War 2. There were a few people standing next to the stones when we laid the flowers, we looked at each other and said, you must be Feddersen’s. Yes, this guy’s father was the brother of Kirk’s paternal grandfather. We visited a bit and I said that one of my best friend’s step-father was named after this great-uncle that died in WW2…wouldn’t you know that was the man I was speaking to. It was one of those WOW moments.
Some time later we were putting flowers down at Kirk’s great grandparents, an older couple walked up and asked if we knew them, I explained the connection. This lady was the half-sister of Kirk’s paternal grandmother. We had a great talk, learned some really neat family history and was invited to the family reunion next month. Leo was a sweetheart and actually accepted a hug from this great great aunt he didn’t know…he’s at the age he just doesn’t hug anyone but mom before bed. It was a really neat chance meeting. Kirk’s family have never really done anything with his dad’s side of the family since I’ve been around, it was great to be able to learn some family history for my ancestry work.
Memorial Day is one of my most favorite holidays. I know it’s to remember those who have fought and lost their lives for us, but it’s also to remember all who have gone on before us. I’m so proud of our two great-uncles who gave their lives for us over in Europe. Two heros who are and will forever be etched in my heart. God Bless to one and all who have fought and lost their lives for our country. God Bless all the families who have had to mourn that loss. God Bless to all who have fought!