ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY:   Remembering names of the fallen

© Another Day in the Country

There is a coming of age that occurs with humankind. The woman fights for life and the man fights for a place to sustain life. And so we fight for peace. A strange incongruity.

It is that way in almost every part of the human experience. We fight for peace among nations. We fight for congruity in a neighborhood. We fight for peace even in a marriage. It’s hard work, difficult work to fight for peace. We wish so many times that peace came easy, naturally; but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

We’d like for our country to be in harmony and instead we have warring factions even in our leadership. We’d like for our hometown to be friendly and kind; but instead there are always those who don’t like to cooperate, who think it’s a sport to be mean. This all happens in times of relative peace, while we are free, we the people in pursuit of our own happiness.

But you let something bad happen — a tornado, a tree falls, a spouse dies, someone is sick, and people come out of the woodwork to be supportive of each other, helpful. This continues to surprise me.

“Why can’t it always be like this where people watch out for one another?” I ask myself. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this happened on a daily basis. Why does it have to take something bad to happen, a catastrophe for folk to work together?”

We are just a tiny petri dish, a sampling of the larger world, these United States. What happens in Marion County seems to happen the same in a larger world on that larger scale. When Oklahoma was devastated suddenly the political parties say, “Now we’ll cooperate, we won’t be obstreperous,”

We the people, in our own pursuits can be very divided, too, until there is some bigger threat — war unites us. When it’s war, we can all get behind a common cause, even if it’s a made up cause, or someone else’s cause. We rally. We give ourselves. We give our children. It’s a fearsome thing to sacrifice the next generation in service of peace.

We are a nation of immigrants. In Marion County they mostly came from Germany, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Norway. In other parts of these United States they came from Mexico, China, Japan, Vietnam. In the East they came from Ireland, England, and South America.

We all came, hunting for a safe place. My Grandpa Ehrhardt was one of those German wheat farmers who accepted farm land in Russia. Promised that his sons would not to be conscripted into an army, when war loomed, that promise was forgotten so Grandpa launched out like a spaceship toward the moon and came to America — to Kansas. My Great-Grandpa Schubert brought his young family to America from Berlin, Germany.

We’re all move-ins, like my Aunt Gertie used to say. We came in search of freedom. And here we are, first, second, third, fourth generation of these heroes.

On a day like Memorial Day, we stopped to remember — not only the soldiers who fought to preserve, but the farmers who fought to survive. We build every day on their legacy.

It’s good to remember! Aunt Gertie used to fall asleep reciting all the names of all the folk who used to live on the 80-acre farms surrounding Ramona and were no longer there. Her son, Keith, and I listed loved ones, friends, and neighbors we’d lost in Ramona since 2000. It’s a long list.

Something happened, though, as we recalled those names. A smile would come to our face, a story would be told, and sometimes there was a catch in our throat as we remembered! As long as we remember their names, they are still alive in our hearts. As often as we tell the stories, they walk amongst us once again.

I remember, several years ago, our friend Margaret got the bright idea of offering to put flowers on graves for people who no longer could get to the cemetery.

We could make some extra money for Fourth of July, so we all started cutting peony buds (they were early that year) and putting them together for bouquets at the cemetery. That weekend, our cousins, Gary and Keith, were here and they helped us put out dozens and dozens of peony bouquets.

Sometimes, we had trouble finding people. We knew where our relatives were, but some of these folks were strangers to us. “Have you seen the Schraeders?” Jess would call. “Anyone know where the Webers are?” “I found Escaldsons,” The names echoed back and forth.

This year, at our Memorial Celebration at Lewis Cemetery, the whole group who gathered stood and called out the names of their loved ones and friends who were buried there. It was wonderful to hear! We were remembering another day in the country.

 

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