The old woman's gnarled fingers worked at the flowers, trying to separate the ones she wanted from those that wouldn't make it into the final arrangement. So much to do, and not enough energy or time to get it all finished. This day was always fraught with frustration and sadness, a mixture of pride and supreme disappointment.
Memorial Day had come and gone more times than she could remember, and yet she knew each and every one of them by heart. The first one had taken almost every ounce of strength that she possessed as she tended to the new grave of her oldest son, the fallen marine. Vietnam had claimed him, had changed her life forever.
When the messengers came to tell her of his death the entire factory had heard her screams. No, it was not possible that her sweet boy was gone, and yet in the days that followed she would face the awful truth that the one true light of her life would never shine again.
She worked at the flowers, trying to get them into the ornate vase that stood beneath the monolith that was his tombstone. She sometimes regretted the size of it, but at the time it had been necessary to make the statement larger than her grief. He deserved to be remembered, to tower above the others in this old cemetery that was already the resting place of her beloved oldest brother, and of her father.
The little cemetery stretched over a hilltop and down towards the church campground where her son had encountered God one evening, making his declarations of faith and forever committing himself to his Maker. Now, she reckoned, he was eternally with the Almighty, something she often longed for as well.
Getting old without the comfort of her son…
She finished the first urn and moved over to the next. She was tired, and hot and…
Another tall monument with another ornate urn in which she now painstakingly arranged another bunch of flowers. Her other son, a tragic car accident. Within two years she had been left childless, a cruel end to her only joy. For the nearly fifty years since she had labored at life, had tried to be happy and convince herself and others that an eternal reward would be enough.
The heat was almost unbearable and her hip was arguing that the effort to move was too great. She struggled against the pain and trudged down the hill, away from the two great monuments to her sons. The flowers would be fine, and the images of her boys flooded her memories as she recorded yet another Memorial Day.