Father’s Day at Home and in the Cemetery
Sonora Smart Dodd had a great idea. It was such a good idea that we are still doing it more than 100 years later. In 1909, Sonora thought that it was nice that mothers had an official Mother’s Day, but she had no mother. So she wanted to set aside a special day to honor fathers. Father’s Day is now celebrated on the third Sunday in June in the United States.
Sonora was especially close to her father, a widower who was raising his six children by himself after his wife died in childbirth. She wanted to honor not only her own father but fathers throughout the country for their unselfish service. Thinking of her dad, Senora chose his birth month of June for the holiday.
The first Father’s Day celebration was held on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. By 1913 a bill was introduced to make the holiday official, but it lacked support.
In 1924, the idea was supported by President Calvin Coolidge, but he did not make a national proclamation. Then in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a presidential proclamation to set aside the 3rd Sunday in June as Father’s Day. However, it wasn’t until 1972 that Father’s Day was declared a permanent national holiday by President Richard Nixon.
The United States is not the only country that recognizes dads. More than 50 counties around the world have a designated day to honor fathers – usually in May, June, or in early autumn.
Whether you will be spending Father’s Day with your dad or grandfather by your side at the dinner table, on the other end of the phone, or kneeling by their graveside, below are 10 ways you can honor them.
1. Take His Advice (and write it down!)
Father’s Day is a good time to remember the life lessons that our fathers, grandfathers, or other father-figures have taught us.
It’s a father’s delight (when he isn’t shaving or mowing something) to pass on gems of wisdom to his offspring like “Measure twice, cut once.” Or “Essential oils are the oils used to cook chicken and French fries. All the rest are non-essential.”
Write down the advice your father and grandfathers have given over the years so their words can be passed on to their posterity. Whether they are still living or have passed away, you could start a journal to record their words – silly or smart – before they slip away from your memory.
Novelist John Gregory Brown said, “There’s something like a line of gold thread running through a man’s words when he talks to his [child], and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself.”
2. Follow His Example
One of the traits my grandfather exemplified was hard work. He was the vice-president of Michigan National Bank until his retirement at age 65. Then he and my grandmother moved to the coast of North Carolina.
He was never one to sit still for long, so Grandpa bought a small wooden boat and started his own enterprise. Each night he put his fishing nets into the Pamlico Sound and the next day he was up at dawn to pull in the catch. He kept the best fish for his family and sold the rest at market. He also learned to harvest crab, scallops, and oysters.
Grandpa kept this up until age 96! People often asked him why he worked so hard when he was retired. He answered with a question of his own, “What else would I do, sit in a rocking chair?”
On one visit our son, who was 3, wanted to catch a fish with a fishing pole. That didn’t work too well in that area, but Grandpa rigged up a pole and let him try. Before long we all went in for dinner. Towards the end of the meal, Grandpa said he would go check the pole.
Soon he came racing back into the house to announce that there was fish on the line. It was so big that our 3 year-old needed help hauling it in. It was thick and nearly 3 feet long! Our son never even noticed that it was frozen solid.
3. Spend Time Together
Do what your father likes to do.
As I was growing up, my father often included me in his hobbies and his work. When he dug potatoes in the garden, my brothers and I put them in a bucket. He told us to put worms in another bucket so he could take us on a fishing trip after the gardening was done.
My dad taught me to clean a duck, gut a fish, ski down a mountain, and swim across a lake. He showed me how to tie a fishing jig, play ping-pong, and cook over an open fire.
Find ways to make memories together this Father’s Day and those 24 hours will be some of your best.
4. Forgive Him
Remember that your father was once a little boy who needed someone’s love and teaching. His growing-up life was likely not perfect – none are – so he may not have learned all the lessons life had to teach before he became a father himself.
So cut him some slack, forgive his mistakes, and love him anyway.
5. Take GPS-linked photos of all the gravestones in the cemetery where your father’s family is buried
a. Download the BillionGraves app to your smartphone.
b. Create a free account on the app or at BillionGraves.com. c. In the app, click on “take pictures” to begin taking photos in your local cemetery. The GPS location will automatically be recorded. d. When finished, connect to Wi-Fi and upload cemetery photos. e. Repeat! 🙂
Photo-taking Tips: a. Stand to the side to avoid casting a shadow. b. Remove weeds, grass, or other debris that may block gravestone information. c. Be sure names and dates are inside the photo frame. d. Use the link icon in the corner of the screen to connect photos. This may be done for gravestones with multiple sides or to link family members. e. Use the pencil icon in the corner of the screen to label stones that may be difficult for transcribers to read.
6. Clean your father’s (or grandfather’s) gravestone.
Father’s Day without a dad can be especially tough. He may not be there for you to serve him breakfast in bed, read your card, or open your gift, but you can still honor him in a special way.
In some areas of the country, particularly where it is moist and humid, biological growth can cover a gravestone in just a few years. If your father’s gravestone is covered in lichen, moss, or algae, you can safely clean it using a biological solution called D/2.
Or if your father is still alive, buy a gravestone cleaning kit for him as a Father’s Day gift. Then go with him to the cemetery where his ancestors are buried to clean gravestones together. It will likely turn into an amazing story-telling session as you work together side-by-side and he reminisces.
The BillionGraves blog post Gravestone Cleaning 101 has tips on how to properly clean a headstone.
7. Label Your Father’s Photos.
Dig out those old pictures and get them labeled before everyone forgets who they are! Your dad or other family members may be able to identify the people that you have never met. When you are done, add pictures of your father and his genealogical line to BillionGraves or FamilySearch.
8. Give Time
If your father has passed away, spend your time making another father happy on Father’s Day. Maybe you prepared your dad’s favorite meal, gave him a gift, or wrote him a letter on his special day. Now brighten someone else’s day by doing the same for him.
Because every man should be able to experience the feeling of being loved like a father whose child races into his arms at the end of the day grinning and shouting, “Daddy’s home!!!”
No one will ever replace your dad, but your acts of kindness and love in his memory would make him proud of the child he raised.
Happy Father’s Day!
Cathy Wallace and the BillionGraves Team