One of the unique privileges of living in a rural community, or even being from a family that is part of a rural community, is the opportunity to be part of cemetery associations. They shoulder the responsibility of maintaining a connection between the past and the future.

The month of May is the traditional time for these associations to hold their annual meetings, and one or more such gatherings have been scheduled in the Brownwood area each weekend for several weeks. Sometimes, these meetings come just after workdays when volunteers do the necessary “spring cleanup” as grass turns green and plantlife begins to grow.

With the arrival of Memorial Day, families with loved ones buried at these cemeteries sometimes drive many miles to remember their ancestors, decorate graves and honor those who served in the military.

Association meetings typically feature outstanding covered dish meals, good fellowship and some poignant retelling of treasured memories. That’s standard fare at such events, and the agenda is repeated dozens of times at numerous rural cemeteries. Many such meetings coincide with Memorial Day, when veterans buried in these cemeteries are also honored.

Most of the cemetery associations operate in tight financial situations, but for the families who have loved ones buried in these often overlooked rural locations, keeping them attractive and open is a labor of love. Unfortunately, the cemeteries may be all that remains of a once thriving community whose residents scattered long ago to seek livelihoods elsewhere. But the headstones in those cemeteries hold a rich history that could be lost within a generation if those who care — and who still remember — don’t stay involved.

Cemeteries have become big business in large cities, and that’s understandable. The costs involved in maintaining them continue to grow. Those costs also touch these smaller, rural cemeteries, but thanks to volunteer workers and generous donors, they are still able to properly honor those who are buried there. In many ways, the way of life those who lived long ago is also being perpetuated through these association meetings.

Members will often find themselves gathering in a wooden building without air-conditioning, or under an open tabernacle exposed to the elements. The food will be home-cooked. The singing will be much like that heard at an old-time revival.

It’s a way of life not seen very often these days — a way of life where families know each other’s children and their parents and grandparents and what each is doing for a living. These meetings help the younger members of the familiies get a glimpse of how things were before television and the Internet, and before cell phones and text messaging. Perhaps, as these memories are passed along, a touch of that community feeling will go with the future generation as well.

Brownwood Bulletin