I went bone diggin’ this past week. It was a lot of fun. The first grave yard I wen….Whoa Nellie. Grave yard??? Bone diggin’??? That’s gooder’n pot luck on cornbread. Laugh out loud! I can just imagine what must be goin’ thru your minds when you mingle those two thoughts. Well, slow the wagons while the cream rises and I will explain myself.
Before retirement I was always too busy working and rearin’ children to have time for all the things I enjoy. I have several passions. I love to collect stories and southern sayings. I love photography and I love to write. When I merge all of these together I come out on top. After I retired last year I decided to do one other thing I have planned for years; I am writing my memoirs. To do so requires a little bone digging and by that I mean looking for my ancestors.
I live in the heart of Dixie and love being a southerner. The South has a rich history and there is lot to discover here. My ancestry is revealing and deeper I dig the more bones I find. I’m goin’ deeper y’all. This is important not just for me, but for my descendants who follow. I want them to know their heritage and that Christ has been at its center for a very long time. I only knew my grandfather (pictured above) the first four years of my life. I know nothing about him other than he was a farmer in Louisiana and that my Dad loved him so much that he stated many how he couldn’t wait to see Jesus first and then hug his dad.
Now you see? I’m not out diggin’ up graves ‘cause the jaws of hell are gapin’ for anyone that’d do that; I’m just diggin’ up bones. I have lots to tell so I will begin this with the first part of several. Following is an article I wrote with another bone digger for our local paper. You can settle your mind and relax while I tell you how many fish make up a mess.
After a cousin died I realized that in each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. We put flesh on their bones and bring them to life. We dig deep into the past and tell their story knowing that somehow they approve. I have collected stories my whole life. Some I have lived and others I have been told. Oh if only I had listened more closely, more intensely.
It is not a chore; it is a duty, a warmhearted gathering of facts breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. I am the one chosen. It is as if the genes have called out to reunite us for our future descendants. If not documented now, who will record it in the future? Who will hear the story? Who will witness it?
It is as if I am an old soul listening to those who have gone before me. With each new revelation I hear their voice. No one remembers them, or even knows who they were. “Tell our story,” they say, “and, find yourself.”
With each new death I am reminded of those who went before. Memories bring a smile, while a tear rolls down my face. I stand before my parent’s grave and yearn for just one more hug; just one more conversation to tuck safely in the repository of and share with the future. I am saddened that my grandchildren will never know them, they will never experience the joy I carry with me. I must become their joy.
While walking through the grave yard there seems this calling from each stone to tell children that they need their story told, too. “Find my children,” they say. “Tell them I am here.” Oh, how I wish I could help, but I have my own story to find.
A friend of my cousin said it like this: Finding the story requires dedication and more than just the facts. “It goes to who I am and why I do the things I do? It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can’t let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to achieve. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us so that we might be born who we are, that we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are them and they are us. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers.
This is why I dig for bones. It is not just a genealogy; it is the story of my family. My prayer is that someone will be called in the next generation to pick up the mantle and place flesh on my bones and send forward.
I hope you have enjoyed this so far. It is hard sometimes to deal with death in a positive pose. It is not my purpose to tell you all my family secrets. Rather, just to have you think of all that your dependents will miss if you do not scribe the stories now, before there is a time when no one will know them.
Note: I took the above pictures in two small country cemeteries found in Ogden and Phoenix, MS.