The cemetery where my brother is buried doesn’t allow a permanent, year-round planter on the grave site. Every fall we have to pick it up. I usually drive around all winter with it in the trunk wrapped in a white kitchen bag. Technically, we can put the planter back in the spring, but I like to wait a bit until I know the flowers will have a chance to survive. The forecasters said Memorial Day weekend was looking good. Daniel went out with me to pick some flowers. We ended up with a red geranium and a six pack of begonias.
I opened up the bag to the planter and pulled out the dead flowers from last season. People stopping by David’s site tend to bring things that remind them of him: old cell phones, little dog statuettes, cigarettes and roses. I know that everything in there is sentimental to someone, but most of it just isn’t built to last. I gently sorted the trash out first then picked through the other items, washing them off with the hose and a scouring pad. My mom bought a little gas station building – David was a mechanic – but it wasn’t quite little enough to fit in the planter. I had to use the house she bought last year instead.
I planted the house first, arranging it a little to one side. The geranium was next, on the short side by itself and then I placed the begonias in a horseshoe pattern on the other side. There were three dog statues from last year; I placed the cleanest one in the center of the ring. I added a couple of pinecones. Those have been in the planter since the first spring David was buried. They’re gray now, but still pretty firm. Someone had placed a Chinese throwing star in the planter a couple of years ago. It reminds me of David as well, but I was worried the groundskeepers might find it. I pulled the house up out of the dirt and stuck the star underneath.
I set the planter in place while Daniel drove his Hot Wheels on his stone, jumping from date to date like The Dukes of Hazzard. I didn’t think David would mind. Other people had already been out there; there was a bouquet of white plastic flowers and a small American flag stuck in the soil. I was going to take them to the truck, but I happened to look around the “neighborhood”. Ahead of David’s row was a pair of military gravestones. Staff Sergeant Joseph M. Sowa and Marine Frank Schultz had both served in World War II.
The grass around each stone had begun to creep over the edges. Frank was down to “rank” until I pulled back the green and brushed away the dirt. He had died in 1985. Sowa had passed away in 1979. Judging from the condition, I have a feeling their loved ones may also have passed on in the intervening years. I placed the bouquet on one (after taking the price tag off) and the flag on the other. Daniel and I gave them both a salute before walking over to the chapel.