The most faithful of these families will go the cemetery the week prior to Decoration Sunday to mow and clean up around the graves of loved ones. On Sunday, additional flowers are brought to decorate the site and the extended family will gather there or at a church or a family member’s home to reminisce.
It is like a family reunion. Children born into the family, men and women who have recently married into the family, are introduced around to all the aunts, uncles and cousins. Stories are told about those who have passed away. The memories of these loved ones are shared amid the laughter and the tears of all.
With these precious memories comes a sense of belonging, a sense of pride in your flesh and blood, many who were “the salt of the earth.”
These are people who taught you valued lessons in life and made a great impact on who you are. You are always glad when you hear of your family’s successes and victories. Their triumphs are your triumphs. You are proud that one of your cousins has been promoted to the top of his career. Joy is shared when you learn that one of your extended family members has earned a doctorate or survived a bad divorce to overcome financial troubles. Maybe another cousin has been sober for several years and now has a great job or another is winning a battle with cancer.
Many of us will live out these scenarios during Decoration Sunday.
As we celebrate the lives of those who have passed, we will also celebrate the good things in the lives of those still living.
The lyricist said, “Paradise is waiting at the end of the trail.”
I, too, have that hope.
From time to time, we honor our past community leaders. Some left us a legacy of good deeds. When their names are mentioned, those who knew them will quickly recall their goodness, their unselfishness, their patriotism. Others have made a lot of great contributions, but there is no one left to sing his or her song.
Some who had responsibility in leading our community did not do so well with their stewardship. I guess they “whistled” well.
The old town preacher was known by all to be a kind, honest, humble spirit who refused to speak ill of anyone. The meanest, low-down, ungodly man in town died. Some were anxious to hear what the old preacher would have to say about him.
When they asked the preacher, he scratched his head and thought a minute, then replied, “Well, he whistled well.”
Our community has many challenges staring us in the face. It is almost like we are looking down the wrong end of a loaded gun.
There is a need for leaders to step up to the plate and put our money where our mouths are. I am speaking of our elected and appointed leaders, business and professional leaders.
We need some bold, thoughtful leadership during this time of what we hope is an economic recovery.
Most of us, I think, are independent minded and self reliant. I also believe most of us resent our taxpayer money being doled out by Washington and Nashville.
We have also learned that Washington, D.C., and Nashville are clueless when it comes to the topics of educating children, law enforcement and other areas as well.
I say these things not to bash the state and federal government, but just to remind you that you and I will solve our problems, and we will do that at some sacrifice to all of us.
Politicians will have to put careers, health insurance, retirement and other benefits at risk; businesspeople have to speak up and show their willingness to sacrifice a little longer. Individuals have to seek out and learn all sides of these public issues and lend their moral support to what is right.
Our leaders should tell the “why” behind the various directions they are taking in Cleveland and Bradley County. They may find the citizens will more readily accept their programs if they have more details.
Our people need to know that we have problems, serious problems straight ahead as they relate to public safety, schools, animal shelters, and other pressing needs. They should be given the undiluted truth.
I believe we can face every one of these challenges head-on. It is like eating an elephant: take one bite at a time. We are very large on benevolence. Let’s channel that spirit into improving city and county government to serve us.
Down the road, when they have the singing on the hill and say words over us, I hope they say, “He/she was a part of that group that helped our community as we went through some hard times. Without his/her courage and forthrightness and the help of like-minded people, we would not be the great place we live in today.”
Think about it.
What are you willing to do for those coming behind us?
Thanks for reading.