To a father growing old,
nothing is dearer than a daughter.
Today was Dad & Daughter day. I made a date with my father months ago and announced that I would take off work and have a secret adventure. I shared with him this week that we would be celebrating his favorite president's 258th birthday by attending the grave-site presidential wreath-laying ceremony by the US Military.
Each year on a former president’s birthday anniversary, the President of the United States sends a wreath of red, white and blue flowers to be placed on the tomb of the former president. Wreaths have been used at funerals since Ancient Greece. The symbolism is basically the circle of eternal life. The Victorians had their own language of flowers; the presidential wreath focuses more on colors which makes me smile since irises are used for the *blue*... but they're stunning so I'm not complaining. In my world, irises remind me of my father. In my family, it was always Dad who found some abandoned flower in the woods or in a neglected lot, dug it up and replanted it to help it thrive again.
Dad has never been to my favorite cemetery, Hollywood Cemetery, and when he said he was going to take pictures of President Monroe's gravestone, I discovered that my father has no idea what it even looked like.
James Monroe was one of the Founding Fathers and the 5th United States President, the 4th President from Virginia. Go Home State, err, Commonwealth; I digress. President Monroe was considered one of the most popular presidents, especially by Virginians; yet, my father is a Northerner and is still a big fan.
“Monroe was so honest that if you turned his soul inside out there would not be a spot on it.” ~Thomas Jefferson
After Monroe’s wife died, he went into a deep period of grief and left Virginia for New York to live with his daughter. When he passed, Monroe’s body was interred in New York City in 1831. In 1858, a movement began in Virginia to bring home the remains of her native sons. Monroe’s body was placed in state in New York City Hall on July 3. After a bit of journey south, the re-interment took place July fifth. It was a grand ceremony a great public occasion. Monroe was buried with full military honors. It was probably one of Richmond’s largest spectacles before the Civil War.
This monument in Hollywood Cemetery is one of my favorites. Alfred Lybrock was commissioned to design a suitable monument to cover Monroe’s remains. In 1859, the Commonwealth of Virginia installed Lybrock‘s design, “a granite sarcophagus surrounded by a flamboyant Gothic Revival cast iron canopy” (National Parks Services). Doesn’t that just roll off your tongue ;) Monroe’s tomb firmly established Hollywood as one of the foremost places of burial in Virginia.
When we arrived today for the wreath laying ceremony, I had completely forgotten that the *birdcage* tomb has been taken apart in order to restore it (sadly to its original lighter color) in time to coincide the bicentennial of his election as president.
The birdcageless tomb did not spoil the day. My dad had a great time. We walked around the cemetery, peeped in mausoleums to see Tiffany stained glass windows, and discussed the history of some of the renowned figures.
I do not typically steal a day for myself especially on a workday but my father and I have been discussing the “one day we will…” for quite some time. When Monroe’s birthday fell on a non-teaching day, I made the plans firm. We would not wait until 2017, 2018, 2019…or God forbid that day in the future when I would have muttered, “I wish Dad and I had…” I try to take trips; I try to be present in these moments because I know that they will not always happen. And, when I’m at my childhood home, I always take pictures of Dad's flowers, especially the irises.