Small town cemeteries in the mid-west start bustling when Memorial day weekend rolls around. Leading up to the weekend, lawn mowers chug up and down the rows and weed eaters raise dust and gravel as they trim the edges of the winding paths.
American Legion volunteers study the cemetery map and then fan out to place a miniature flag on every veteran’s grave site. Another crew places larger flags in a precise row along the side of the cemetery facing the road.
The chief Legionnaire orders up a sunny and hot weekend with blue skies and a bit of wind to move the leaves on the enormous shade trees and rustle the grasses in the surrounding fields.
The visitors come in clusters. They carry peonies in coffee cans wrapped in aluminum foil or pots of cheerful geraniums or wreaths with plastic greenery and purple pansies. They greet people they know and stop to catch up.
When they stop at grave sites and stoop to arrange their flowers, there are silent words of comfort that mix with the sharp pain of loss.