“The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.”
With these words, I ended my novel Ordinary Grace. Every Memorial Day, I’m reminded how true these sentiments are when I take part in a tradition familiar to many. I didn’t grow up visiting the graves of my relatives on Memorial Day weekend, but my wife did. Every year, we travel to her family home in Nebraska and spend one or two days placing flowers on the graves of those in her family who are now just one final puff of air away. Most are in rural cemeteries, peaceful places set among farm fields. It’s a lovely sight, row upon row of dour markers brightened by flowers, and, for the vast number of veterans, American flags ruffling in the wind. We shouldn’t need special days to remember those who were important in our lives, who were part of the history that brought us into being, but it helps. I like to think that when I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, at least one day a year, my children or grandchildren or great grandchildren might take a moment to reflect and to wish my spirit well.