Life can be fleeting at times. When you have the time, the will is not always presented. When your moments are limited each and every story will flow like the most powerful river. Such was the case many years ago as my grandfather neared the end of his journey. He had the time, as well as the desire, to finish his story with class. His stories became very detailed as he articulated each and every event so vividly. When one is focused and determined without interruption the results can be simply beautiful.
I recall the hours spent holding his hand and watching this man take each and every breath, wondering if this would be the last. As his chest rose so did my hope for another moment together, a new story or an elaborate tale from the days in the past. He would rest, awaken for a time and ask the nurse where I was at other times. A mutual respect and love spanning generations and anchored in history, not just any history, but the history I so desperately craved at a young age.
The lessons learned from grandfather prompted me to record my grandmother as she spoke of her young childhood, crossing from New Hampshire into Vermont in a covered wagon with the few worldly possession they owned packed securely. Two horses pulling the wagon across the unpaved country roads with my recently immigrated great-grandparents seated side by side. Their destination was one of hope, opportunity and the chance for their daughter to enjoy the freedom our young nation offered to their children.
As the years progressed, I developed the ability to remember each and every detail, take notes in my journal, save old photographs and most importantly I always took the time to listen to my elders as they spoke of the past. As I learned about their hardships, I developed a deeper appreciation for the life I was afforded, my active imagination allowed me to find a quiet place, close my eyes and dream of what used to be. Perhaps my moments of meditation allowed me a heightened sense of observation, understanding and long-term memory. As the years passed and my conversations with older relatives from which I descended became more and more frequent I realized it would not always be this way, for at some point I would become them.
A quiet moment, the chance to reflect and the opportunity to share my thoughts has allowed me to share with you the importance of history. Where you have come from and where you are going, for the destination truly is the same as it was for your parents, grandparents and great grandparents: to love your family, live your life easier than the generation before. To not fear for your future or neglect your past.
As my very young grandmother sat in the covered wagon and traveled the back roads to Bethel, Vermont, she had hope. Her possessions were few, but who can place a value on a dream.
Grandfather took his last breath. His chest did not rise again and his last story had now been told. I felt the last of the warmth leave his hand as I held it. He did not leave me with sorrow, he left me with hope for the future and the ability to comfort those in need. A dream can be priceless.