May 102017
 

In the hyper-awareness that comes with loss, quite a few bittersweet moments have embossed themselves on my heart and memory. Snapshots of love, grief, and faith, gathered over the last two weeks.

Sacred Bittersweet Moments

Our minds record touching, bittersweet moments more vividly than a camera could.

I thought the dearly departed would have enjoyed some of them, were he watching. Perhaps he was. My insights aren’t unique, I’m sure. Such bittersweet moments happen in families all the time. But I found comfort in writing them down. Considering them together, I realize that they tell a story that is as much about the departed as those he left behind.

I hope that by my sharing them, you’ll record a few of your own.

Sacred sounds

A pastor’s voice cracking, tears streaming down her face, as she pronounced, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Uttering the words, “His blood, shed for you,” siblings assume their father’s stewardship of the tiny church, assisting the pastor.

A granddaughter’s solo, poignant yet familiar, fills the space.

Throughout the tables crowded with people, white bread sandwiches and mayonnaise-based salads, laughter rings out in the midst of tears.

Intimate, Bittersweet Moments

The widow greets her recently widowed brother-in-law by her husband’s casket. Supported by cane and walker, their heads bend, foreheads resting against one another, tears flowing in shared loss. Others, turn tactfully away, granting them privacy in a crowd.

Ninety-two-year-old sister-in-law dips the bread in the chalice, intinction-style, then selects a communion cup of wine from the tray, taking it with her to her seat. Silent laughter through prayers and tears.

Grandchildren

Cousins hug. Standard distance that accompanies re-acquaintance dissolved in shared shock. Resolute. Wet-eyed. Comforting each other, laughing together, through the tears.

Six young adult grandchildren spread the funeral pall—symbol of the resurrection—over the casket together, with help from the six-year old great grandchild. Somber under their mantle as earthly evidence of his legacy of love and family.

Then, with the two youngest in the lead, the grandchildren move the casket to the chancel, ushering their beloved grandfather to the gates of heaven.

After the service, grandchildren slip flowers out of their gardner-grandfather’s funeral blanket, transferring them to their great-grandparents’ stone, giving homage to ancestors whose memories have faded, yet still transcend.

Great-grand child selecting yet another stone to grace with a flower, because it might make someone happy. Hugs, smiles and laughter through the tears.

Roles shifting

Widow, now matriarch, offers to pay for dinner. Grandchildren confer, then cough up tens and twenties. Provider becomes the protected.

Grandsons and their uncles, awkwardly making their way through the grass and grave markers, struggling with the weight of their burden. Carrying the load. Together.

Grandson occupies the driver’s seat, ready to chauffeur his grandmother to the grave-side service, accidentally pops the hood. Laughter, through our tears.

Afterwards

Café tables pulled together and food and beverages shared, loved ones sit, heads together in small groups, telling stories they’ve all told and heard before. Laughter through the tears.

Helpful offspring, stripping beds, not realizing their siblings had already done the same. Laughter, despite the heaviness of heart.

A solitary face in the window, waving goodbye.

His gifts of faith, family, storytelling, and laughter keep giving.

Your Turn:

Can you tell a story through the description of a few poignant or bittersweet moments? I’d love to see what you come up with.

Jul 212016
 
Reunions are stories of family

Relatives, In-laws, or friends, reunions are a great place to restore relationships and recover faded memories.

Until last weekend, I had forgotten how poignant reunions can be. Whether it’s family, school, or something else, reunions allow you to reconnect with the past. Not only are they great places to re-color some of those faded memories, they refresh the soul. Continue reading »

Mar 072016
 
Paula Williams Madison and her definition of family

Paula Williams Madison puts the definition of family in a new light.

During RootsTech, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Paula Williams Madison, author of Finding Samuel Lowe: Harlem, Jamaica, China. Of course, there’s a lot more to Paula than authoring a bestselling memoir and a documentary by the same name. She’s the former top NBC executive for diversity.  She’s the winner of many awards, such as being listed among the “75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America” (Black Enterprise magazine) and one of “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business” (Asian American Business Development Center).

Her long list of accomplishments don’t say it all. She’s also a warm and gracious woman—a pleasure to interview.

Here’s our interview. Paula had some helpful advice for family history writers. She talked about how to decide what to share and the meaning of family. Continue reading »

Sep 082015
 
What I did on my summer vacation picture from childhood

Remember having to write “What I did on my Summer Vacation” essays? Well, sharpen those pencils

Where did the opportunity to tell all your peers “What I did on my Summer Vacation” go? Here in the USA, as September rolls around, it’s not just the kids that are in back-to-school mode. Everyone is looking forward. They’ll ask you, “How was your summer?” but it’s clear that a monosyllabic or few-syllabic response is preferred. “Fine.” “Hot.” “It went fast.”

When you do have an adventure to talk about, not many people are geared to listen.

That’s why you should be writing, not waiting for someone to ask!

Narrating—or the opportunity to narrate—“what I did on summer vacation” is a lost art. Continue reading »

Jul 162015
 
A couple trying to remember somethings and not others

Understanding why we remember some things and not others might help facilitate recall.

Have you ever wondered why you remember some things but not others ? Have you ever wondered why some things come back to you seemingly out of the blue? You think to yourself, “That’s funny, I haven’t thought about that in years.”

Actually, it’s better than funny. The science behind how memory works is fascinating and cool.

Obviously, “How Memory Works” is a topic far beyond the scope of a single blog post. But it is fun to take a look at what scientists call episodic or autobiographical memories—the events of our pasts.

The memories we have and are able to recall are critical to how we think of ourselves. Researchers Martin A. Conway and Christophe Pleydell-Pearce explain, “autobiographical memory is of fundamental significance for the self, for emotions, and for the experience of personhood, that is the experience of enduring as an individual, in a culture, over time.” Continue reading »

Jul 022015
 
Hometown context - a graphic of houses along a river

Adding hometown context can help your stories come to life

Your hometown comes to represent much more than the place you grew up. It’s your version of your state and country.

When we write about family members, ancestors, or ourselves, it’s important to give readers a glimpse of that hometown context. It helps explain worldview, values, and traditions. It helps them understand the personalities involved in our stories.

For instance, my hometown still colors my perception and understanding of events, even though I’ve now lived away from South Carolina as long as I lived there. It’s part of me. Though I’ve lived in the mid-west for over twenty years, I still consider myself a southerner. Continue reading »

Jun 042015
 
Foot in mouth

Big Foot in mouth (again).

Have you ever said something and as soon as it left your lips, you would have given your eye-tooth (I don’t actually know which one that is) to have your words back again? Failing that, you’d like to dissolve into the woodwork and never be seen again?

I have. On more than one occasion.

We’ve all had moments when we’ve had to try to bandage our dignity as we extract our foot from our mouths. Share them!  I’ll go first.  (You’re next, though. Misery loves company.)  Continue reading »

Apr 162015
 
Author Judith Fein emotional genealogy

Author Judith Fein writes about emotional genealogy

Today, I’m particularly pleased to present a guest post by Judith Fein and her concept of emotional genealogy.

When I gave my first talk about the power of Emotional Genealogy, I wondered if anyone would be able to connect to what I was speaking about. To my surprise, audience members asked questions for over an hour, and then they continued with personal questions for another half an hour.

You may be wondering what Emotional Genealogy is. Briefly, it involves examining how the behaviors of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents influenced who we are and how we are in the world. And it doesn’t matter if we knew them or not. Continue reading »

Mar 232015
 
Cross my heart stories

Because we didn’t say them lightly, the promises we made make great stories

Remember (if you’re approximately my age) how we used to cross our hearts and “hope to die”? We’d earnestly pledge ourselves to some action or affection, pantomiming the heart crossing as if we (in my case, good Southern Baptist girls) were genuflecting.

Today, kids pinky swear. To me, pinky swearing doesn’t carry the same weight as our covenants made on the pain of a-needle-in our-eye injury. But what do I know? As much as I assuredly meant all those promises (unless, of course, I somehow managed to cross my fingers behind my back as I gesticulated the heart crossing on my front), I can’t remember many of my hope-to-dies. The one I do remember was to remain lifelong friends with Sally Moore. I lost touch with Sally a few years after she moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, which for my 12-year-old perspective. might as well have been Peru. Continue reading »

Feb 262015
 
Memories Family Stories and community learning

Memories, family stories, and community learning were all featured on this episode of Dear Myrtle’s Wacky Wednesday

Dear Myrtle, “Your friend in Genealogy since 1955,” was the would-be storyteller’s friend on her February 25, 2015 Wacky Wednesday show (embedded below). And, as the guest on her show, I got a great taste of community learning. Continue reading »