How did our ancestors do it?
Without the Internet.
Without "cheerful" memes or tweets from sympathetic friends?
Without advice from numerous websites about overcoming grief and "getting on with your life" ?
How did our ancestors cope with the loss of loved ones? A parent, a child, a grandchild?
Did they have the means to erect a tombstone - of stone, to withstand the weather for generations?
Or was the memorial, of necessity, a few initials scratched on a rudimentary wooden cross?
Most certainly there were private memorials, etched in the heart.
To this I can relate.
Were there annual trips to the family cemetery with flowers lovingly placed?
We do this as a matter of course each Memorial Day. On Veterans Day, we decorate our servicemen and women's graves honoring their service.
Having experienced the loss of a child years ago, my parents in 2006 and 2007, and then this year the passing of a grandson and a month later a grandfather in our extended family - I know it is TOUGH. And I have all the modern conveniences, all the access to modern tutorials on grief management.
As a mother, I didn't lose three to typhoid or one to scarlet fever. We have modern medicine to thank for this. But how did our ancestors handle the grief?
One thing I share with my ancestors is the remembrance of simple times shared with beloved family members now gone. I understand the grief.
Of times not shared.
Of voices no longer heard.
No more hugs, silly storytelling or trips to Orcas Island.
Taking the younger generation to the old haunts is bittersweet.
We think of the things that might have been.
We think of things we wish we'd said.
|Image: Licensed by Adobe Stock.|
Were my ancestors comforted by family and friends?
Did the minister come to call?
My father could hardly speak of his beloved mother, without choking back tears. How they loved playing checkers...
|IMAGE: Siblings Jack Player, Glen S. Player and Beverly (Player) Muir|
at the graves of their parents Shirl Player and Myrtle (Weiser) Player Severinson,
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Seattle, Washington, June 2007,
from the author's private collection.
In the case of the death of my maternal grandmother's father, I know nothing more than what I gleaned from on site research in Emporia, Kansas. We followed directions to the Ivy Cemetery in Admire, Kansas, along a paved 2-lane road, to a gravel road, and finally to a deeply rutted dirt road. Wish I'd had a ladder and some black paint to freshen up the sign at the entrance.
|IMAGE: The Ivy Cemetery, Admire, Kansas, 2012,|
from the author's private collection.
|IMAGE: Charles H. Goering tombstone, Ivy Cemetery, |
Admire, Kansas, 2012, from the author's personal collection.
I mentioned I sat down near Charles' grave stone, about where the red box is in this photo:
|IMAGE: Elizabeth Shafer Goering and Charles H. Goering tombstones,|
Ivy Cemetery, Admire, Kansas, from the author's personal collection.
My feet noticed a lump in the grass, and when I straightened it up, and removed some weeds, I found a broken stone with the letters "FATHER" still visible. Apparently this foot stone is my grandmother's expression of personal loss at the death of her father. (Although the stone seems off center, it wasn't when sitting there.)
That reminded me that my grandmother, an only child, said she loved her father dearly, particularly after the loss of her mother Estelle Mae Phillips. There was resentment when Charles later married again, and it was said my grandmother never got along with her step-mother Elizabeth.
Sitting, I wondered how my grandmother managed to pay for this stone. I know her daughter, my mother, was a mere toddler of about 3 years of age at the time Charles passed away. My grandmother and her husband and child are found up in Washington state in the 1930 US federal population schedule the year before.
I remember how hard it was for me when my father passed away. The memorial service was very difficult.
Was my grandmother financially able to attend her father's funeral?
Did she travel by train with a cranky, inquisitive, bouncy 3-year old in tow, while her husband held down the fort at home? The concept of "family leave" wasn't around until late in the 20th century.
Or was my grandmother only able to order the "FATHER" stone, now the tangible evidence of her feelings for her beloved Poppa?
With two close family funerals within a month of each other, I've found life is in sort of a muddle.
We leave the grave site, thankful for the life, perhaps cut all too short. We are thankful the elderly are no longer suffering. And then we pick up the little strands that make up our life.
Initially just going through the motions.
First we do what needs to be done with travel and laundry.
Though we have a calendar, we seem to move from each "must do" appointment to the next, almost thoughtlessly.
Was this how my grandmother felt when her mother died? Was this how she felt when her father died?
Or was she comforted by the cute things my mother as a young child might say and do each day? Was my grandmother going through the motions, caring for my mother then, until the pain subsided? Until she could almost get through a sentence without choking up, like my father? Like me?
Earlier today, I found myself looking out the window at the spring snow's lacy pattern in the blossoms of my apricot tree. I was lost in thought recalling my grandmother's admonition - "This is apricot preserves, not apricot jam." I think of traditions handed down.
I think of questions I never thought to ask.
I remember the good times.
It's the circle of life, but it's sometimes hard to understand personal loss.