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Beacon blog: A family funeral and Memorial Day

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 24, 2009 - The meaning of Memorial Day crept up on me at a cemetery on a cloudy afternoon the day before.

My cousin's widow, Fay, had died after being in a nursing home for more than a year. Through one of those family mixups that happens as people move and generations lose touch, none of Paul's cousins or uncles were told about Paul's death. So, Dad and Uncle Bob and I wanted to go to Effingham to pay our respects to both people.

That's not to say we wouldn't have gone to pay respects to Fay alone. Fay was fun, and she passed my very simple test when she came into the family: She talked to me, not down to the “child.” Paul, you see, was my oldest cousin, and I was probably 12 or 13 when Felicita Cantoni became Fay Jones at a beautiful wedding at St. Ambrose.

And for a long time we kept in touch. But as Paul and Fay's children pulled their attention more within the immediate family -- and then the same thing happened with my family – we exchanged Christmas cards that talked of a family reunion that never really materialized. Indeed, the last two times I had seen this part of the family were at funerals.

So, here I was with my daughter looking at family I hadn't seen for a long time, and searching the faces of the children of Paul and Fay for that family tie. Judy's smile is the one I remember from her mother. Carol's features are those of her grandmother, my Aunt Mary. Tommy has his father's zest for life. P.J. - the eldest - is a great combination of both parents. Then I looked around. At the simple headstones in a lovely part of an old cemetery.

Row after row, name after name: these were veterans. People who served when called. Many had been veterans such as my cousin who served honorably and moved on. Others did not have a chance to have four kids and see them grow into vibrant, engaging adults.

It was but a moment of realization of the sacrifice that members of our armed services make. But the traditional prayer extended, for me, to cousins – and the comrades with whom they found rest.

Saints of God, come to their aid.
Come to meet them, angels of the Lord.
Receive their soul and present them to God the Most High

Donna Korando started work in journalism at SIU’s Daily Egyptian in 1968. In between Carbondale and St. Louis Public Radio, she taught high school in Manitowoc, Wis., and worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the copy editor and letters editor for the editorial page from 1973-77. As an editorial writer from 1977-87, she covered Illinois and city politics, education, agriculture, family issues and sub-Saharan Africa. When she was editor of the Commentary Page from 1987-2003, the page won several awards from the Association of Opinion Page Editors. From 2003-07, she headed the features copy desk.

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