A humming lawnmower sang at the far end of the cemetery as people arrived with their flowers, veterans’ flags and eternal lights the weekend before Memorial Day. It was surprisingly quiet in the cemetery. People talked in low voices as they worked at trimming rebellious grass and removing riotous weeds.

The tombstone looked smaller each year. It was as if it were contracting with the memories of the loved ones who had passed on.


But stone’s polished granite face was unchanged and had weathered one of the worst winters in years.


A pine tree nearby loomed more than 60 feet over head. It was an appropriate umbrella for the tombstone and for the nature-loving ancestors who lay interred beneath its canopy.


A humming lawnmower sang at the far end of the cemetery as people arrived with their flowers, veterans’ flags and eternal lights the weekend before Memorial Day. It was surprisingly quiet in the cemetery. People talked in low voices as they worked at trimming rebellious grass and removing riotous weeds.


A toddler hopped on the grass and looked at his mother who was planting flowers. He giggled over nothing in particular. Perhaps he was just enjoying the profound quietude of the place. His mother patted the brown earth and he crouched down in Native-American fashion and patted the dirt with his little hands. He giggled again.


His mother stood and smiled at him and looked a long time at the tombstone.


“This is your great grandmother’s and grandfather’s grave,” she said to the boy. He looked at her and at the stone and then back at his mother again. He hadn’t seen her stand this still for so long. He walked over and leaned against her leg.


A breeze blew in from the northwest and unfurled the veterans’ flags. There seemed to be more of them this year, the tenth year of our longest war.


The cemetery still retained its ethnic divisions. Early English settlers were buried in the oldest sections of the town’s cemetery. Irish, Greek, Italian, German, French, Spanish and all other groups had their own newer sections. It was a tombstone genealogy marking the migration of those who chased the American Dream.


The young mother didn’t know whether her grandparents could hear her, but she talked to them anyway.


“We are doing well. Everyone is healthy and happy. I am going to make your special pie this weekend, Grandma, and we will have a cookout at the lake, Grandpa, just the way you used to mark (Memorial Day). Johnny is 2 now and a handful. I wish you could see him. We love you and miss you,” she said.


Her son let go of her leg and wobbled his way to the tombstone. He bent down once again and patted the soil. His mother nodded in approval and smiled.


“OK, let’s go,” she said. “We’ve got a pie to make.”


She took his hand, and with the other hand, carried a water can. The lawnmower sound grew closer now and more people were arriving.


They got in the car and started to roll away from the gravesite. Small pea stones and gravel rumbled and hissed under the tires. It was a sound unique to the cemetery.


She would think about it, and her son’s giggle, all the upcoming year.


Peter Costa is a columnist for GateHouse Media. His latest book of humor is “Outrageous CostaLiving: Still Laughing Through Life,” which is available at amazon.com.