Decoration Day: A dying tradition?


EAGLEVILLE, Tenn. (WHNT) – This time of year, people across the south get together to put new flowers on the graves of loved ones. But some worry the tradition won’t last forever.

Almost heaven, but the country roads I recently traveled are in Tennessee. And they take me home a couple times a year.

Eagleville is a small city about 25 miles from where I grew up in south Nashville. 943 people now call it home. There’s still only one traffic light in town.

The landscape has changed the last 60 years. One thing has not, the memories I have growing up going to my grandparents’ little piece of God’s green earth in the country every other weekend.

It’s where they were raised and where they now rest, in a cemetery just down the road from where they lived. And on the first Sunday in May, I make the annual trip to visit the graves of my ancestors.

One of my cousins, Elizabeth Edmondson has been attending Decoration Day since she was a little girl. “It’s been going on the first Sunday in May for years,” she told me.

Norma Johnsey lives in Eagleville. “It’s just a time to remember where you came from and remember your roots, just to honor those people who came before you and that are responsible for you being here,” she said.

It’s a day we gather from across the country to remember. “My husband was buried here, my mom and dad, and grandparents,” Elizabeth told me, “It really means a lot.”

Another Eagleville resident, William L. King said, “It’s to honor those who are here and hopefully, I guess I’ll be put here too.” He laughed.

With covid in the rearview mirror, more people were able to attend this year. Robert Bradley, Jr. of Nashville noticed saying, “There’s more this year than there’s been in a good while.”

Each year, we have a business meeting and pass the hat to pay for someone to take care of the cemetery for the next year. And we close with prayer.

With heads bowed, my twin brother Terry prayed, “Lord, we just thank you for the time we can spend here today to honor those who have gone on before us.”

Decoration Day is a social event. “Everybody getting together and getting to see family members that you don’t see very often,” Norma said.

It’s a chance for cousins to catch up on life and talk about classic cars. “And that’s grandaddy’s old 57 Chevy,” Terry said as he showed a picture on his phone to our cousin Kenny Edmonson.

Others talk about their time in military. “We’re exchanging war stories,” William said with a chuckle. Norma added, “I think it’s a southern thing pretty much and when you talk about decoration, people go, a what?” She laughed.

Those of us who are now older, worry about whether future generations will continue the tradition. “I think about that sometimes too, you know,” Elizabeth told me. Norma added, “I think people are losing those old traditions, but I hope here it sticks around for a long time.”

We’re hoping we won’t be forgotten. “I hope somebody comes to visit me on the first Sunday in May,” Norma added.

Some believe Decoration Day started in the late 1800’s and later became Memorial Day which honors the men and women who gave their lives for our country.



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