Memorial Day is a very complex holiday to me. On the one hand, we celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer; on the other hand, we express our immeasurable gratitude to the people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our welfare. Somehow, those two meet and we end up with a holiday weekend that, I think, ultimately celebrates life.

When I originally began thinking about what to write for today’s blog post, I was going to talk about memorial gardens…and I still am, I guess, but in a different way than I thought I would. You can search for memorial gardens and find any number of websites that will direct you to a list of plants, each with a specific meaning. But memorial gardens are so personal, so specific that it’s hard to know if that’s the right approach. Should you stick with the traditional plant palette of forget-me-nots (memories), rosemary (remembrance), yellow tulips (friendship), oak (strength), etc…or should you plant their favorite tree and flowers. I don’t know. That’s a question no one can answer for you, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t help.

Over the years, Scott Byron & Co. has done a fair amount of designs and installations of memorial plaques, trees, gardens, family cemetery plots, and even the layout and gardens around the mausoleum at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie. Everyone has their own idea for what they’d like and we’ve done our best to express a delicate design touch that recognizes the peace found in quiet spaces and the joy and comfort found in living trees and flowers. What is right for one family may be wrong for another, and it’s not something that can be prescribed by an internet plant list.

I don’t mean for this to turn into a depressing post and so I will leave you these interesting tidbits…As I was looking up plants and their meanings, I ended up going down an internet rabbit hole trying to figure out why yews are so prominently associated with cemeteries. What I can tell you is that nobody knows. There are a number of theories, but nothing that definitively says “We plant yews because XYZ.” Some texts speculate that they are appropriate for cemeteries because either yews represent immortality/the transcendence of death (because of their longevity) or because their leaves are deadly poisonous and their wood was used to make longbows. So they either represent life or death, depending on which side you believe.

Another thing I learned was that some early chapels were built inside hollow yew trunks and that a few could hold up to 30 people! It seems that we have always been as interested in death as we have been in life.

We hope you have a great holiday weekend that’s filled with love, friends, and family and we extend our love and gratitude to all the veterans who have done so much for us all.