These are flowers of love

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Many cemeteries scatter over the land where I am from.  Yearly, on the first Sunday in June, families join in Tennessee to show love for those who once loved them.  I don’t know of a sweeter tradition than Decoration Day when folks gather to lay flowers beside stones that bear the names of their kin.

I had not been in years, but I needed to correct that.  After all, my whole family was laid to rest on a hill there and in the older cemetery near where the old mill once stood.

I left Georgia and followed the road to Knoxville where I visited my 93-year-old aunt and my cousins, which was a delight.

Afterwards, I headed west to the rural areas outside of Knoxville.  A heavenly place where the Tennessee River crosses the land of summer green and the great Smoky Mountains seem peaceful and serene in the distance.

In the middle of the countryside, with only one house nearby, stands a Presbyterian church built in 1797.  The red brick structure with its white steeple looming to heaven is in stellar condition.  It’s doors still beckoning worshipers every Sunday.

The rising knoll in the back of the church is filled with the graves of heroes that served in many wars as well as their family members that once called this place home.

I placed an American flag in the dirt beside Revolutionary War soldier John Walker, born in 1747.  I don’t know how I am related to him, but DNA tells me that I am.  I laid a flower beside his wife, Mary.  I wondered as I walked away why I did not want to leave?

I continued west down the highway lined with limestone and crossed over the lakes and rivers to the land of the Cumberland Plateau.  I checked into my little B & B in the town where I was born.

My sister in law and her daughter were coming the next day to join me.

My niece, Emily, arrived early Saturday.  I had bought my flowers the night before.  We set out early letting GPS direct us down a dirt path to the little Walker Cemetery.

GPS, the internet and four wheel drive allowed us to arrive to the family of Andrew Jackson Walker, my great, great, grandfather born in 1829.

Of course, there was a locked chain link fence around the cemetery.  After studying it for a minute, Emily and I determined we could shimmy through the gate.  You would need a video to understand.  I am sure the ghosts who reside there were laughing hysterically.

We planted flowers in front of A.J.’s and Clementine’s graves. We studied the family around them and wondered about their lives. I wondered why I didn’t want to leave.

When my sister in law arrived, we went to the cemeteries where our immediate family’s names are carved in granite.  We placed flowers beside grandparents, parents, siblings, husbands, fathers, aunts, uncles and cousins.  The gray tombstones started to transform into rainbows.

We did the same at the older cemetery.  Great grandparents, great uncles, and a baby sister buried near a tree.  My father would weep every time he would visit his little two-year-old sister’s grave, so I placed a little pink flower beside her lamb topped stone.

By the next day, the drabness of death was renewed with sweet flowers of love.  Large families stood beside the graves, told stories and rubbed headstones.  The hills were alive with fragrance, bold colors and reunion.

In an era filled with technology and futuristic thinking, perhaps we need to pause and visit the past.  It is important to teach our children that those that paved the way for tomorrow need to be honored and remembered today.

Everyone needs to return to the resting place of those that gave so much of themselves to loving us.  Those that fought in wars and protected us.  Those that washed off a skinned knee or read the Three Little Pigs over and over.  Those that drove horses instead of cars. Those that buried babies because of yellow fever, and those that cared for the churches they loved.  These are the folks of our heritage. These are the stories of us.

I now know why I did not want to leave. These flowers of love had transformed death into living color.  The roses, daisies, mums, and gladiolas reminded me that those I love are still alive beyond the colors of the rainbow and in my heart.

Lynn Walker Gendusa is a former resident and writer who currently resides in Roswell.