Courtesy of Sofia Francesca Photography

It has become a tradition for my little family to put together a picnic and drive over to Forest Lawn Cemetery on Memorial Day. Many cemeteries are beautiful parks for both living and dead. They are in their glory in the spring, with the trees in full leaf and flowers blooming among the elaborate funerary sculpture and mausoleums. My family does not have a relative buried there but we still have our favorite places to visit.

First we stroll through the weathered head stones that mark the graves of soldiers and sailors from the Civil War and all wars and conflicts since. Volunteers have come through earlier to place flags at each grave. As we walk, we read the names and life dates on the grave markers and the messages written from the living to their dead. History lessons from text books become real people with mothers. We pick up fallen flags that have blown down and do our best to re-plant them. There is a new space dedicated to those fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. There we see where fresh earth is turned and the stones glisten white.

After our walk we find a quiet place by a little lake, munch on our sandwiches, reflect on what we have seen and remember our own loved ones who have passed on. In this serene place where death mingles quietly with life, the geese parade by with their goslings, honking with irritation at the laggers. And we laugh.