Monday, May 27, 2013

in memoriam

I never had the chance to meet my great-uncle Johnny.  He was killed while serving in the US Army, somewhere in Italy during World War II.   My twenty-three-year-old paternal grandmother was carrying out her missionary responsibilities for the Mormon church in the state of Missouri at the time and living over a thousand miles away from her parents and six siblings when she received the long distance call about her brother. The following are the words she shared in her autobiography:
     This was my first experience with the death of a loved one.  I felt all alone, far away from home, with no one there to comfort me.  I put on my coat and went walking, with no destination, just going on whatever street I came upon.  The cold stinging wind on my face felt so good to me.  The numbness of  my face matched the numbness of my mind... it was not until I received letters from the family at home two or three days later that my numbness melted and I could cry and feel relief.

Johnny is our only known relative to have lost his life while serving in the armed forces. I'm grateful he's the only one.

A Revolutionary War cemetery, tucked neatly behind the Paxton Presbyterian church, just minutes from our home, is the resting place for many of Harrisburg's most prominent citizens such as John Harris II, the founder of our city, and William Maclay, the first US Senator from Pennsylvania (a street in Harrisburg proper respectfully bears his name). Many of the Rutherfords lie here as well- it's my understanding that the family members were wealthy landowners that held a considerable amount of real estate in the area.

It is sobering to walk the small grounds, give a try at deciphering the dates on the tombstones- many of which have faded away with the passage of time.  I love the simple tombstone belonging to George Washington which reads:

     George Washington died Aug- 1898.  Born a slave in Georgia.  Came north in 1865 with the 9th PA Calvary and spent the remainder of his life in Paxton Valley.  A faithful Servant and Exemplary Christian.

Not unlike many Americans, we enjoyed this extra day to play.  The truck was loaded with our bicycles and we headed north on 81 to Stony Creek, where we biked to a fishing spot along the trail. Sitting underneath a cacophony of birds, next to the moss covered trees and stones, we replenished our hungry bellies and inhaled the beauty of the creek scintillating below our feet.  Mr. Hero took three of the guys down a bit further where the water deepened, while Mr. Tailor stayed with me and filled me in on the events of his life. I was glad to sit and listen to his happiness, my fingers busy with the knitting needles-content.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail flittered on by as we were held by the vibrance of the moment.  And we were happy- all of us.
Imagine that.


Rachael | The Slow-Cooked Sentence said...

Everyone happy, all at one time. A gift.

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

An autobiography written by your grandmother is such a special thing. I'd love to read an autobiography written by one of my grandmothers.

Kath said...

How very lovely. I am intrigued by the autobiography too. I have my gran's diaries, they are mostly filled with 'good wash day with plenty of warm breeze' and what her son and husband were doing in the fields that day. I adore reading them.

the Lady said...

Rachael- Yeah, no kidding!

Denise and Kath- My paternal grandmother and grandfather wrote autobiographies and presented the hard back copies to their six living children and 48 grandchildren many years before they died.

My grandmother's was two volumes containing almost a thousand pages (she kept journals through the years from the time she was a teenager) and Grandpa's was a little over two hundred pages long.
Photographs are in both autobiographies as well.

I do enjoy them and am grateful for their histories- which will be passed down to my own children one day.

Kath said...

How very wonderful. What a keepsake.

the Lady said...

Your gran's diaries sound really special, too. Have you ever planted any of the veggies your grandfather and her son planted in their fields so long ago? Was her son your father?

Britta said...

I feel very lucky to have all of my family returned from service. What a lovely way to spend a memorial day - I always figure being with family is quite appropriate.

the Lady said...

Yes, you are fortunate. Which of your family members served?

Britta said...

Both grandfather's, my father, and two uncles, plus Tom's brother, his father and grandfather. A lot of veterans who returned safely when so many did not.

the Lady said...

One word.

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

Wow, two volumes and almost a thousand pages. And your grandfather wrote one too. Even better than I imagined.