Last Monday was Memorial Day, a day devoted to honoring old soldiers living and dead, and to the first cookouts of summer, and to remembering lost relatives. We didn’t have time for a cookout, but my husband and I spent the day traveling most of the width of Pennsylvania to leave flowers on family graves.
Some of the cemeteries we visited are relatively new, with unused space, and still in active use. Then there are the old ones where our relatives were some of the last to be added. My father’s parents lie at the edge of their graveyard, just before it tumbles downhill in a slope too steep to walk on. And not far up the hill from them, I noticed this grave marked by a new flag.
On Memorial Day, flags mark the graves of soldiers; veterans’ organizations see to that. But the stone looked old, very old. Sure enough, the man below it has been gone for ninety years, since my mother was a baby (and how shocked his family must have been to lose him on Christmas!) But long before that, young Mr. Neff was a soldier in the Grand Army of the Republic; he fought to keep this country in one piece for four long bloody years of civil war.