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I won’t be spending Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery this year and I feel a little guilty about it. As a child growing up in New England, I remember my family’s tradition of gathering at the cemetery to honor our relatives by straightening tombstones, clearing brush and debris, and finally decorating the graves with fresh flowers. We said prayers for the dearly departed before eating “dinner on the grounds” (quite literally, on a blanket.)

It was a family reunion of sorts – between both dead and living relatives. I never considered it strange that we were picnicking atop the graves of our ancestors. It was simply a peaceful, all-day event, which included sharing stories and laughter.

Today, I live too far away to continue the tradition, but part of my heart will be in Washington DC and Brookline, Massachusetts, on this holiday.

May they all rest in peace.


Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers.