Remembering You

Posted on September 7, 2022 by Lisa Thomas under Uncategorized
1 Comment

It was a beautiful day last Sunday . . .  at least that morning.  But the afternoon?  Not so much, given the rainy, windy weather that set it and seemed content to stay for a while.

I was driving to Collinwood, a lovely journey through the country where enjoyment is mandatory because speed can be dangerous if not deadly.  It was my annual trip to record for posterity (and Facebook) what is known as Decoration Day at the Memorial Gardens there, but which I simply refer to as amazing.  As I drove I passed several cemeteries and side roads that led to others . . . Sunny Hill, Lutts, Cromwell Crossroads, and Bear Creek Copeland where the narrow path leads deep into the woods—woods which open to reveal a place of peace, dotted with nameless handmade crosses meant to mark someone’s final resting place when money was scarce but the desire strong.

For those who aren’t familiar with the area, the Memorial Gardens in Collinwood sit adjacent to the funeral home in Collinwood, a convenient happenstance when one wishes to hold a funeral and a burial without too much travel in between.  Across Fire Tower Road that runs beside the cemetery sits McGlamery Church, which also has a burial ground of the same name adjacent to it—and which just happens to celebrate Decoration Day on the same first Sunday in September.

I want you to understand, the people of this community believe in a good, old-fashioned Decoration.  When I arrived at the funeral home, there was barely a place to park, and I really thought I was early enough to avoid the crowds.  Families were scattered about the property, canopies set up to shelter them from the sun or lawn chairs nestled into the shade of the trees that grace the property.  Some literally sat at the feet of Jesus—the feature in one of the gardens—while others wandered about, visiting with friends and admiring the efforts of so many.  Folks would arrive, carrying mums or other flowers meant to be added to those that already covered the grave.  But those decorations weren’t limited to just flowers.  If you could think of it and find a way to use it, then there was probably at least one to be found, from a child’s barn complete with farm animals and their caretaker to an enormous wooden cross that towered above the grave it marked.

All of this effort resulted in an amazing landscape—an instance where the total was truly greater than the sum of the parts.  And I know how much effort it took to accomplish that.  In the past I’ve been privileged to watch as parents and grandparents brought their young ones to these sacred grounds days before the event, allowing them to help as they decorated the graves, showing them the beauty of their work and the work of others while sharing with them their heritage and how special it can be when it’s honored in that fashion.  On that Sunday morning there was an abundance of children present, but there was also respect for the occasion and those whose memories they had come to honor.

As I reached the farthest boundary of the cemetery I could hear the strains of “I Saw the Light” floating across the air from McGlamery.  They had gathered there as well, with services being held in the shade of the massive trees surrounding the church and dinner on the ground planned for later.  But the breeze had begun to pick up and the clouds to roll in.  I was 45 minutes from home and driving the curves of Highway 203 in a downpour was not my idea of a good time.  Honestly though, I wanted to linger . . . to sit in the shade at McGlamery or wander the gardens beside the funeral home.  It was a morning that made me long for the spirit of community and the sharing of memories . . . and the peace that comes in the company of the dead and the living who honor their lives.



About the author:  Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926.  She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there.  Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.


One thought on “Remembering You

  1. Judy Kirk says:

    God bless your heart, Lisa, you have touched mine again. My husband truly longs for the day when Decoration Day at Reaves Cemetery was just as you described. He is still a faithful participant, but others – not so much any more. Maybe – no, definitely – that is just what this old world needs these days – more connection with God and family.

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