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Original Writings, Images, Video and Artworks of Mike Hartley

Arlington National Cemetery – Home

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Home is where your Parents are. That home is Arlington National Cemetery for my parents. And its always good to go home and see your parents.

My parents grave after the wonderful people from Wreaths Across America decorated for the holiday. Photo by Mike Hartley

Arlington is many things to many people. Here are a few thing that it makes me feel. It’s a place of beauty and respect. It’s a place of tears and memories. Sometimes a soft smile can be seen from those mourning, but mostly it’s deep stares, bowed heads and emotion. Mostly, it’s a lone person, but sometimes you see pieces of families. Ages are all over the place. From young children and wives of soldiers recently deceased, to children who are now seniors themselves whose parents from previous wars are passing of advanced years.

Lone man walking back after graveside visit. Photo by Mike Hartley

Lone man walking back after graveside visit.
Photo by Mike Hartley

Sometimes I go for walks after visiting my parents. Sometimes I just sit and relax with them for a while longer and skip the walk. Somehow touching the headstone or in a private moment giving it a hug feels good. Looking around at the trees and birds that my Mom and Dad used to love watching makes our connection still relevant.

Backdrop Photo by Mike Hartley

Backdrop
Photo by Mike Hartley

I think about how nice they keep the grounds there and how my parents loved to have their yards and gardens looking good. I hear a peace about the silence with the exception of the occasional plane leaving National Airport. Sorry Reagan airport. But it reminds me to look up at the sky on a nice day.

Someone remembered Photo by Mike Hartley

Someone remembered
Photo by Mike Hartley

The winter and holidays are rough. The cold, the trees bare of leaves, the dormant grass and the grey skies signal loneliness. They invoke memories that take you back to warmer times but the wind kicks up and the chill reminds you your alone. Only at a fresh snow or the weeks after the Wreaths Across America organization lays wreaths at each grave does the place feel OK to me during this season. But it’s just not conducive to the longer visits of the other seasons. But I always try to get down around Christmas or New Years to pay my respects.

Photo by Mike Hartley

Photo by Mike Hartley

Spring is like a rebirth. It’s easier to spend more time visiting and talking graveside, without the cold and wet draining your depleted strength. I remember spring being my Moms favorite season. I think it was because she was always giving new life to plants in her garden. And boy did she love the animals coming out also. It’s funny now that I think about it. I think I get as excited about seeing wildlife as she used to. And to take things into summer is the Memorial Day Celebration which is a wonderful to see all those flags.

Photo by Mike Hartley

Photo by Mike Hartley

The summer brings an additional warmth to the place. Its grasses are an unending carpet that grows. The birds flock to this paradise. Its headstones glimmer in the sunlight brighter than any other time. It’s also tourist season. I’m kind of intimidated by those trams full of people riding around looking at the grounds when I’m at my parents graveside. I tend to just turn and keep my back to it. I hope they don’t think it rude but going there is a private time for me. A majority of visits I do alone. It’s not that my wife doesn’t offer to come along. I just like talking to my parents alone most of the time now.

Photo by Mike Hartley

Photo by Mike Hartley

The fall season is of course the most colorful and with Veteran’s Day celebrations, it’s a special time of year. Tourist aren’t as prevalent and its relaxed visits before the next season with the holiday emotions. It’s the time I bring Mom some colorful flowers for her birthday. I used to love buying her flowers the last few years of her life. I’d try to keep fresh ones for her pretty much most of the time. To see her face light up and wanting to smell them each before I put them in water. So I know I’m still making her smile someplace, if not just in my own heart.

Tram loading Photo by Mike Hartley

Tram loading
Photo by Mike Hartley

Working in DC allows me to visit my parent home fairly often. I made a visit on the 27th of Dec. and thanked them again for all they have given me. Life at holiday time without them certainly is different though.

Please visit Wreaths Across America if you can and make a donation if you choose.

Author: Mike Hartley

With a lifetime and a half in the Newspaper industry I'm preparing for my retirement career as an Artist, Writer, Photographer and Video content provider. I'm a proud father of two wonderful children and I'm still married to the first girl I fell in love with and probably only one that would have me.

2 thoughts on “Arlington National Cemetery – Home

  1. I like talking to my parents alone too at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. My only brother is here at Arlington.

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