|Lindsay Cemetery Mike Maples photographer via Facebook|
As long as I can remember, our family has loved a trip to the cemetery. Now, let me preface that with we do prefer to walk of our on accord instead of being carried. Many a Sunday picnic in Greenbrier ended with a walk to one of the several cemeteries in that section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our elders rest in those hallowed grounds and the families of those scattered during the establishment of the Park in the mid 1920's continue to yearn for a connection to our roots. I remember one summer evening in particular when I along with mom, my sister Marjorie, cousin Pat (yep the Pat of Old Diamond fame) and Aunt Hazel went to Friendship Cemetery right at dusk to decorate the grave for the upcoming Decoration Day. The cemetery is on the hill to the right of the bridge over the river to Ramsey Cascades. My Aunt Margie Parton, who died when she was around 3 years old is buried there. She died of pneumonia as did many mountain children. We had been in the cemetery only a few minutes when we heard the scream of what I have been told my whole life is a Panther. Now, few things struck fear in our hearts more than the word Panther. Dr. Wadley, our local dentist was neck at neck in the fear category in my 6 year old opinion.
We ran for our lives toward Aunt Hazels Ford Fairlane parked beside the trailhead at the river. Even though no one actually saw the Panther, we pretty much all agreed it was a close call that night in the cemetery. Every time I go to the cemetery, I remember that Decoration Day and realize that rain, sleet ,snow or Panther cannot keep an Appalachian woman from going to visit a cemetery.
I wish my biggest adversary was a Panther at this point in my life. But dealing with my chronic illness is somewhat the same as the big cat in the tree: scary, powerful and invisible.
Tomorrow is Decoration Day and for the first time I just simply cannot make it to decorate the graves. My sister is in a boot for a foot injury as well. We talked today about how bad we hated and resented this illness that has trapped us both. I had hoped that today I could take the flowers to the cemeteries, but it is not to be. I have been in the Granny Bed all day and simply do not have the energy to make the trek. Most of our fathers side of the family are at Lindsay Cemetery and Huskey Cemetery. We try to every year keep the old mountain tradition of Decoration Day going, but I fear it is fading fast with many families.
Early in the spring, the women would start to make the crepe paper flowers that were placed on the graves in those day. Sometimes they were dipped in paraffin wax to hold up to the elements better.
There is no greater guilt than a mountain woman denied the ability to make it to Decoration Day.
My sister said that our earthly flowers would pale to those they are enjoying in Paradise. I'm sure that is true.
But the Good Lord willing, I will make it next year if that dang Panther don't get me....