Decoration Day came about after the Civil War as a day to put flowers on graves of the war dead. It evolved into a cemetery clean up day in many small towns - families out in force, dinner on the ground. My aunt Mary Hearne painted this some years ago - it's "Decoration Day at Macedonia Cemetery", the place where so many of my "people" are buried.
My first memory of Macedonia is January 1963. My grandpa died, the first death, the first funeral, I remember. We - Karyn, Bill, Rusty, me - were sent to our maternal grandmother's house while Mother and Daddy went to Fordyce to help with arrangements. I had received a cream-colored dress with a brown "fur" collar for Christmas and Mother asked Nammy to hem it up so I could wear it to the funeral. I felt like a princess and begged Nammy to leave it long and what grandmother says "no" to a granddaughter? Mother was not pleased.
It was the custom in that day and time (and town) to bring the casket to a residence for viewing. Kids should not be subjected to these things. Almost sixty years later and the image is still fresh in my mind. I was never comfortable in Grandma's living room after that and I still dislike torchiere lamps. I hid in the hallway - my cousin Ron's dad Marlin tried to comfort me, told me not to be afraid, that he would stay with me. I will never forget that kindness.
I remember being in the car for what seemed like hours. I remember the muddy red clay road that went on forever. I remember the white Methodist church next to the cemetery. I can see my dad leaning against our Ford Fairlane, sobbing. We stopped at a country store on the way back for a Coke, a real treat.
In 2006, my sister Karyn and I decided to do the great cemetery tour. We took flowers to our mother's family's grave in Fordyce, Arkansas, then set out for Macedonia Cemetery. I had not been there in over 40 years and wasn't sure of the way but finally found a country cemetery near Princeton. There wasn't a church, but it had been a long time since I had been there with Grandma and sure things had could have changed. I wandered up and down the rows reading every marker (Greene B. B
lack. Who names their child Greene B. Black?) but there were no Hearnes anywhere. As it turned out, we were in the wrong cemetery!
Thoroughly lost, dazed by the summer heat and very confused, I turned to the only source I knew who might provide directions: the local funeral home. Benton Funeral Home left them there, they could tell me how to find the
m.....and they did. "Take Highway 8 til you see the sign for the Wasp's Nest Deer Camp, then take a left onto the dirt road. If you go past the deer camp, you went too far!"
As Karyn and I drove through the tall south Arkansas pine trees, it started to rain. Dark, dark clouds, lots of thunder and lightning...but we drove on, sisters on a mission. Even though it was mid-afternoon, it was lightning-bug dark when we turned onto the red clay dirt road (yes, all those years later, the road hadn't improved). There was the little white church on the left just as I remembered. The driveway led to a gate in the chain link fence. We stopped, and, at that very moment, so did the rain. A sunbeam made its way through the clouds, shining directly on Grandma and Grandpa's marker as if to say "tah dah! We're here!"
If you look closely at Mary's painting, you'll see that marker, in the middle, just as I remembered.