Photo Credit: qcveterans.com
A reader posted yesterday about how she discovered more about her family’s history at her uncle’s recent funeral than she ever had before. It’s sad in a way to think we don’t talk about such things until there’s a death. In fact, this is the opening scene of my book, Through The Eyes Of Grace. At my grandmother’s funeral I am given a beautifully wrapped gift. I want to put off opening it until later, but my Mom insists on me opening it now. Here’s a portion of it:
As I plopped into the black leather seat I felt something crunch underneath me. It was the gift I had seen on the table! This was all I needed to deal with now. I tossed it aside no longer interested in the who or the why questions that had incensed me before the service.
Mama picked up the gift, “Gracelyn, this is for you. Don’t you want to open it?”
“Um, no! Not now.”
“Why on earth not?”
“Oh, Mama! It’s just not right.”
“Gracelyn, I insist. It may be the giver will be at the dinner. You’ll want to be sure to thank them. I really think it best to open it now.”
Mama usually had the last word, and this time was no exception. I have learned it’s best to do what she says. Picking up the gift I slowly rip the paper away revealing a stained wooden box that smelled much like the old church we had just left. Lifting the lid I discovered the source of the scent – a worn out leather journal.
“What’s this?” I asked casually hoping my excitement didn’t show.
“I’ve seen this before; why, it belonged to Mama. See the engraving – Grace Stella Oswalt?”
As I opened the cover a note fell on the floor. I picked it up only to discover it was in Big Mama’s handwriting. The brief excitement drained from my fingertips as if the dead were calling my name.
“M-Mama, you read it.”
I am an old woman now, and time is running out for me to share with you my story. I’ve waited for you to ask, but now the waiting ends. You are my youngest granddaughter, and one who reminds me so much of myself. It is my prayer as you read this journal you will grow in your understanding of who you are and to whom you belong. Your life is not your own to live as you want. I learned this the hard way, and I pray this journal will help you after I am long gone. Read it well and remember, although life is brief – love is forever.
I sat there in disbelief as the limo came to a stop. I wasn’t sure if I was happy to have this gift or angry she singled me out as needing special help. Maybe it was a little of both, but as hard as it was to admit, I was comforted.
Older family members tend to talk more at reunions and weddings as well. So it’s not just during the saddest of times, it’s more at the pivotal times when family is elevated and given the prominence it deserves. Many young people roll their eyes when they think of going to a family gathering, especially if there’s going to be old people there who only remember them when they were knee high.
We had our first family reunion of distant cousins a few years ago here in Orlando. People traveled from all over the country, but the majority flew in from Oklahoma. My Mom had the time of her life. At 87 she was the oldest living family member there, and everyone had questions to ask her. We made a huge family tree on the wall of our meeting room and asked those attending to bring pictures in order to tape it next to their name. This helped us realize how far reaching our roots have spread in the past century. I also happened upon a conversation starter called Table Topics for Family Gatherings. This ended up being my favorite part of the entire weekend, because people told stories we had never heard before–and we laughed. We laughed until we thought our sides would split.
May I encourage you, if you have the privilege of being invited to a family reunion this year, instead of being the one to roll the eyes, why not look at it as a great adventure where you’re setting out to discover things you don’t know about your family. And then, come back here and let us know what you’ve learned. A story become more permanently fixed in your mind when you’ve repeated it to someone else.
We all have a story, we just might not know it yet!
Questions #11 – Have you ever been to a family reunion? What was it like, who was there, and what stories did you learn?
This is post #11 in the challenge to post everyday in April.