Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

The annual Memorial Day trek to decorate graves with my brother and sister has come and gone. We faithfully visited the long list of buried ancestors, most of who we never actually knew.  My dad’s dad started the tradition and my dad drummed the mission of honoring our history into us.

For years my dad led the charge and narrated the day with stories about Aunt Evelyn and Great Grandpa George, of babies who died tragically and patriarchs who lived long event filled lives, and of the boy who got hit by the ice truck.  We listened but we didn’t write it down.  We always planned to, but time got away from us.  My dad is gone now and with him the details of lives that formed the roots of who we are.

So we find ourselves wandering the rows, pooling the bits and pieces we have, laughing, remembering and wishing we’d listened better.  We thought they were just stories. Now we know better.  Now we know they were the brush strokes on our life canvas.  It mattered that Genevieve’s toddler died of pneumonia and she never had another child.  My dad carried that little bit of sadness with him.  It mattered that one of Walter’s boys went bad and died in a gunfight with police. My dad carried that lesson in making right choices.  It matters that one of dad’s cousins whose name we can’t ever remember ran in front of an ice truck and was killed. My dad carried the reality of how tentative life is from that day forward.

Those pieces and more made up the man who passed on to us the integrity and compassion, sense of humor, passion and everything else that makes my siblings and I who we are today. These are the things we will pass on to our offspring and they will pass to theirs, if we keep the stories going.

Here’s the real tragedy in these ramblings.  I am a writer and I didn’t write the stories!  I used to think writing the next great fiction novel was the most important thing.  Now I know that it is writing the real stories, capturing the true seemingly unimportant details of a life – because my dad’s memories are my history. My present will become the memories that are my children’s history.  And on it goes – the oil painting that is never finished; the canvas that changes layer upon layer, the colors ever deeper and richer.

God knew it. He included in His divine Word stories of generation after generation, stories of dying young and making right and wrong choices, of being heroes and failures, of a father’s traditions being passed on to his sons. He made sure the stories were written down.  He made sure they were shared.  There is a lesson in every one. Just like the lessons hidden in my dad’s simple retelling of the life events buried beneath the headstones. 

Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.  Joel 1:2-4

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