Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Russian Proverb

"You live as long as you are remembered." 
(Russian Proverb)
A couple of weeks ago I was in Kenosha and Zion - visiting cemeteries. It had been a while since I had tended the grave sites of my family. Sister Mary was with me. She wanted to help. I welcomed it. It was sunny, but hot, and we had a good number of graves to spruce up.

Just west of I-94 on Hwy 50. Great Aunt Lina Haubrich Wickham is here.

I remembered thinking (and this was not the first time I thought it), "Why am I doing this?" Why have I spent so much time over the past 35 plus years wandering about and grubbing in cemetaries. Why spend hours in dark LDS research centers and libraries pouring over microfilm and other records. Why study and sort scores of photos late into the night at home.

Maybe the above proverb can help explain these "whys". I like to remember people, especially people from my family's history. I really believe that they (at least most of them, anyway) should be remembered. And, like the proverb says, these moms and dads, brothers and sisters, grammas and grampas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, keep on living when we remember them. 

As I trim away the grass overgrowing their gravestone, I hear my Grampa Dolan calling me "wee Johnny" in his Scottish brogue, and the Lancashire dialect of my Gramma commenting, "it was a lovely place, you know." When I sort through countless pictures of my aunts and uncles I see things like Aunt Estella beautifully presenting what seemed to me then like a huge turkey on Thanksgiving Day in Zion. I hear the Haubrich clan gossiping about Myron Florin or Norma Zimmer from the Lawrence Welk Show on a Sunday night. Although I never knew many other relatives, and many more ancestors lived and died long before I was around, I often feel like I know them. I got to know then by studying their often stoic and unsmiling faces on black and white photos, or seeing their names on church registers and civil records. They all keep on living as long as I keep on remembering.

I tried stamp and coin collecting once, but that never really turned my crank. The patience and attention to detail that is needed for things like model making and woodworking always alluded me. I'm dangerous with a tool in my hand. Gardening, fishing - no thanks. So I go ancestor hunting, tend the branches of family trees, dig through boxes of pictures, and wrestle with genealogical relationships and mysteries.

Almost four years into the Psalmist's three score and ten, one thinks a bit more about the fact that you're not going to live forever. True enough. But that's okay. I promise, I'll keep living - if you keep remembering.

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