This past Sunday was another decoration service for our family. It was much different than any of the other years before, but nevertheless sweet and memorable. I hope you enjoy the photos from this past service and the short stories and photos from years past.
Aug 4th, 2019
This morning was decoration. We gathered on top of that ol' hill, just like we've done for years and the generations before us. The sun was beating down and it was hot, but a slight breeze brought us some relief. We had homemade fans made of church bulletins and whatever we could find. We squeezed together under the tents and umbrellas, trying to find shade.
I hugged the necks of great, great aunts and uncles, cousins, and dear friends. The chattering that went on was music to my ears.
"My! You've all grown up!"
"Are these youngin's yours?"
"Just glad to be here!"
"Remember that time..."
Flowers were placed on the graves in remembrance of the mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles. We remembered them. The ones who have passed on before us. We remembered who they were, what they did and what they meant to us. We were grateful for what they did for us. The sacrifices and the pain. The love and the care. We remembered the simple pleasures we shared and the memories we made. We remembered the meals and the feasting. We remember working along side with them; hoeing corn and harvesting tobacco. We remember going to church with them and attending decorations. We remember what they meant to their communities. We remember all the things money can't buy. We remembered and we were grateful and thankful. And for those who can't remember, our fathers, mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers tell us. They tell us the stories, the tales of loved ones who've gone on home to Jesus.
After the graves were decorated we began our singing and preaching. We were reminded of the tradition of the men digging the graves. The men and boys taking their shovels, digging the hole, talking and remembering. Doing a job that must be done. Together working, sweating and showing gratitude. Boys watching the men and aspiring to be like them. And the day a boy helped to dig a grave, was the day he became a man.
After the sermon we passed the hat for the up keep of the gravesite and then we headed to the shed for a picnic lunch. Most brought sandwiches and some brought chicken, but we all shared.
"How about some pasta salad ?"
"Now somebody help me eat all this food!"
Another decoration is over until next year. I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed talking to Anna, Rodger, Tammy , Alice and everybody. I enjoyed seeing my babysitters Barabara and Carla Jean. I enjoyed this special day. Until next year remember... victory is ours, not even death can defeat us, remember the stories, honor your father and your mother and always be grateful.
Aug 5th, 2018
For the first time today I visited the old homeplace of Bris and Kate. My great, great, grandparent's house. The small house stands no more than 40 feet from the railroad track and is unique in its own way, because you have to walk through the main bedroom to get to the kitchen. I had to prepare myself before entering the house, I have heard so many stories and tales about that old place , I was afraid that I would be disappointed in its simplicity. But, that place proved to be quite the haven and exceeded my expectations. I walked through the bedrooms and I ate in kitchen. I heard stories of Mamaw and Papaw told by their children, grand children and great grandchildren. I saw my little brothers, a generation Kate and Bris never saw, eating fried chicken and sitting on the steps of that old home. I ate Mamaw Sharrol's Potato salad and I ate Mamaw Atlas' creamed corn. I walked the tracks in front of the house. I sat on the porch, rocking and listening to the rolling river. I saw the old shed and the place where the old freezer (that Mamaw kept filled with dirt and nightcrawlers) sat.
Though I've never been in the house before and I can't remember Kate or Bris, I could still feel their presence in that old house and I began to miss someone I don't even remember. I heard laughs, saw smiles and maybe I even saw a tear or two. In this tiny house, a small portion of the offspring of this man and women, feasted and celebrated the fact that this old homeplace was back in the family. Today was my first experience in this place and for others it was the first time in 20 years.
Above the rocking chair in the living room, Uncle Mark and Lisa hung a sign and the sign reads "Home is where your story begins". This home was the beginning Mamaw Atlas' story and it became Mamaw Sharrol's story, and dad inherited the story and now it's mine. It can continue to be mine or it can end with me and though it can be an almost overwhelming task, I'm so honored to receive it.
This morning was the Bennett decoration for Mamaw Kate and Papaw Briscoe and other loved ones. Together we came to remember our beginning, our stories, our heritage and our people. Mamaw and Papaw are dead now, but not their story. Their story still lives, how long will our story live?
I talked to aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, great great aunts and uncles. I got to see two friends who helped care for me when I was younger and I refuse to call Carla Jean my babysitter, because she was so much more than that to me. Today I was refreshed. Today was one of the best days ever and I didn't have travel far or spend money. I just had to come home.