On Memorial Day, I made good on a promise that I made in an earlier post in this space. In the early morning, while most of the people in the house were still asleep, I took my little one with me and we went to Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. It was a beautiful day, and the Stars and Stripes were in abundance. There will be other summer activites ahead, but it felt right to be doing what we did.
My little one was initially unwilling to go. I did my best to convince her it’s an important thing, and she grudgingly agreed to go. On the way over there (it was a short drive to the cemetery) we discussed the Civil War, and she amazed me with her knowledge of the conflict. She reminded me there were other wars too, and she’s right about that, but Rosehill has a number of Civil War graves that we were going to have a look at.
We collected an American flag at the gate, drove inside, and parked the car. We walked past a Leonard Volk monument to the fallen, and then walked to row after row of Civil War casualties. They had names, company identifying information, and the date of their deaths. We read the names, my daughter told me the state abbreviations (most were from Illinois, but there were Iowa and Vermont and Connecticut and others in the mix) and we tried to figure out one grave that was simply marked “Humphrey.” I could see my daughter was getting into it, and she even figured out the pattern of how the soldiers were buried in one section. I’m always proud of her, but the way she took to this is something I’ll always remember.
As we were walking around, we ventured outside of the soldiers’ graves, and found a family plot of a family named Schuyler (pronounced SKY-ler). That’s a name that figures prominently in our family (but I won’t say exactly how) and so we honored them, too. We were there for the soldiers, but we remembered some non-soldiers, too.
When we got in the car to come back home, I drove past the gravesite of Philip A. Starck, who founded a piano company in Chicago a century ago. His name is on the piano in our house, and so we also had a chance to thank him for the music that sometimes fills the air. It was an hour that was very well-spent.
My daughter and I drove home, satisfied that we had identified and remembered people–none of whom we actually knew–who gave something to us, or had a connection to us in some way. And spending time among the dead added to our appreciation of our own lives.