Seems like every year AFTER all the swimming and BBQ's of Memorial Day are over, I think of how it would have been great to do something as a family that would help us think of loved ones and ancestors that have passed on. This year, I finally thought of this idea in advance and acted on it.
I think Memorial day was really started to memorialize those who gave their lives in the armed services. But given the abundance of flowers in every cemetery on Memorial Day, I think it's a safe bet that many people do focus on loved ones who've passed away on this holiday - so I went the route of celebrating our ancestors and loved ones who've moved on.
I pulled out the great compiled family histories, journals and ancestor stories that we're lucky enough to have and had each of the older kids choose an ancestor to learn about and present about. Ashton did Frederick and Elizabeth Jacobsen who joined the church in Denmark and lost all but one of their precious children to black measles on the boat to America but who went on to help found Bear Lake Valley. Isaac did Samuel Washington Orme who was part of the fateful Martin Handcart Company. Eliza did Dan Swenson (we got to read his account in his own words - he wrote out a great history when he was in his 80's) and how he and his 9 siblings and parents lived in destitute conditions in Sweden, making ends meet by embroidering and selling aprons and living on nothing but potatoes. Despite their hardships, they were able to scrimp and save to send the whole family to Zion, one by one.
I know the stories we learned (or re-learned and remembered in my case) made a real difference to me. And it seemed like they really sunk in for the kids as well. We're in a tight spot financially right now - so it was great for us to compare our life of relative luxury to the hard-won lives our ancestors lived. And we all felt such gratitude for all they did to lead us to the beautiful lives we have now.
So we've got a new tradition and we'll do even more with it next year. I think we'll throw in some meals that our ancestors would have eaten. And maybe we'll go tell our stories in a cemetery - even though we don't have loved ones buried nearby, we can still enjoy the peace of a cemetery. Jared's father used to take them to the cemetery each Memorial Day and tell them stories and I'd like to carry that tradition on in memory of him. Plus I think I'll do a new "ancestor wall" in our front entry way. I've been thinking of this for years but the idea of getting so many nice frames and nicely-reproduced photos has been daunting. Maybe if I just focus on adding a few photos each Memorial Day, the project will actually happen bit by bit!
Thank you ancestors. We love you.