Remembering Our History
"Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'it might have been.'"
----John Greenleaf Whittier
I opened up the book of the 'Heritage of Abbeville County' I borrowed from my Great Aunt Johnelle... and it is hard to express the emotions evoked, as I read this quote from the words my grandmother had published in this book in the late 1990s, describing one of my Granddaddy's greatest regrets - not being able to finish out serving a career in ministry due to the mental struggles caused from war.
And yet, I learned so much about my family, my mother's family name, and things that actually WERE - and I can't help but stand in awe at the history and legacy of not just my grandfather... but many great men and women in my family history.
You know, it's not every day that you get to discover your great grandfather founded an original county bank and is still memorialized on the old bank's wall in a mural; that your great uncle holds one of the last civilian time lap records of Daytona Beach before there was a track and was written about in the 1957 Sports Illustrated; or that your own grandfather was quite the ladies' man who won their hearts by baking them fudge!
And if not for the struggles that there actually have been, would I even bother telling the story? One might wonder.
I told my relatives today during my visit; I am learning so much about my family as I take on this project of telling my grandfather's life story. I think it has fallen on me to become somewhat of the family historian these days, because alas - I'm the one who discovered I like to write. And as I dive further into this story, I've discovered more about other members of my family, from both sides.
But what happens when or if none of us decides to learn about our family's history? What if nobody records anything? What happens when we all stop learning about where we came from; where and how our families got started... and even "what might have been?"
I can't help but wonder if that is part of the reason we are seeing so much strife in our own country again? Have too many of the younger generations been swayed by the wrong influences, and totally forgotten where they came from?
Where did your family come from? How did your family get here, in America? Surely there have been some successes in your family somewhere along the way; things that made members of the family proud? Do you think or know how they came to have those successes? Do you think it came without any pain, or suffering, or strife?
Family histories are chock-full of stories about suffering, strife, and success. Our history teaches how to avoid past mistakes, if we learn the history. But someone without powerful and corrupt agendas must write it down. History needs its unbiased recorders to tell the stories of truth... and show the reality of life, that life isn't fair... but ALWAYS worth living.
What if you could tell your mom's story, or your brother's story, or your grandparents' stories? I know I have enjoyed this journey. I am determined to do my part as a living legacy of great men and women, and record some real history, and print out hard copies of it, for others to keep. Maybe or maybe not, that history gets shared in far corners of the world... I don't know.
But wouldn't you want the descendants who come after you to know that you and their other ancestors really lived life... learning about hard work, desires and dreams, and even... "what might have been?"
I will try my best to do it justice, and get it right - for my family.
And who knows; maybe even for the history books.