The Bone Digger

R.W. OLdham - Papa 065_edited-1

Part 1

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.

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. ”      John 5:25

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.


Child's GRave

A Child's Grave

A Child’s Grave


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.


Phoenix Cemeter

Phoenix Cemetery

Note: I took the above pictures in two small country cemeteries found in Ogden and Phoenix, MS.



17 thoughts on “The Bone Digger

  1. Very nice read. One of my sisters and I just collaborated on the telling of our stories(pictures and all) from great grandparents up through our lives as the three of us married. Now it’s up to our children to take it from there. Good luck with your undertaking. Blessings, Natalie

  2. I never knew either of my grandfathers and only knew one grandmother – my Nana and one Aunt. As an only child (or so I thought for many years) of much older parents (40 and 60 when I was born) I led a lonely life with no close friends. I would loved to have known my father’s father, but am glad I didn’t know my mother’s parents from what I’ve been told. Grandparents are very important in a child’s life, and Godly grandparents even more so.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Pick up the mantle and tell your story on paper. I have found my maternal great grandfather was the foreman on a plantation west of New Orleans. They say he was a very mean person who did some really awful things, but you would never know that by the life his son, my grandfather, led. He was quite the opposite. Regardless of our ancestors we can break that bond and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance we can move forward to provide our dependents with a better heritage. The only way to know the past is to dig through the bones. You may be surprised what you find. God Bless you is this walk we endure as it is short term. Love those children and grandchildren with Christ at the center. That is the legacy I want to leave. As Natalie, below said, leave them strong shoulders on which to stand.

  3. My maternal grandparents never really talked to me. They just had me follow them into their garden, or into the fields to point out fox or bird tracks in the snow. They never told me their stories. I got our family stories from my mom. One bad memory when one got old. I’ve made peace with them through God’s doing. My paternal grandparents had issues never mentioned, but ferreted out, by us kids, piecing the stories, from out side the family relatives we stumbled into, by accident. It sort of filled in the blanks. Grandpa drove grandma nuts. Not really a love story. Not really something to right home about. I don’t even know the details. All I know is it affected my dad, and us kids. Love gathers. The opposite scatters. Just had a wolf let loose on one side of our family, to scatter it. God allows these crosses, so as to discover Him, who is love. He rebuilds us, then our family. Loving Him and being loved and forgiven by Him – teaches us to re-write the wrongs, we’ve done in following the wrong path of a family, instead of the right path of Christ. We only worship God. Yet, we will see those who persevered to the end, in heaven worshipping God with us. Saints who washed their robes in His Blood. We will see Christ’s Mother who was asked by Him at the foot of His Cross to exchange Her Divine Son, Jesus for us, a sinful bunch who helped crucify us by our sins, in return. Christ gave her to us, bequeathed her to us, and us to her, Christ looking at His Mother said, “Woman, behold thy son.” And, Christ looking at John, standing near His Mother “Behold, thy Mother.” That is why we call her, Our Blessed Mother. She prays to Jesus, and Jesus prays to His Father. Just as we do. Having a holy family and lots of folks in heaven who are praying for us, I reckon we are loved and have a bigger family than we supposed. God is love. We find solace in that fact. From Christ’s Holy Example on the Cross and after His Resurrection, we learn He forgave St Peter for bailing out on Him, on Good Friday, and Christ still made St Peter the first Pope, to strengthen his brothers in the faith, once he regained his faith. So, if the early church did not just die to sin, but rose with Christ, from their own personal sin …. so can we. We daily die to our selfish ways, and rise in Christ from our personal sins. We can only pray for others, for we are all in need of graces every day, to keep going. And, actually life is beautiful. God is beauty Itself. From God all beauty is created. The songs of birds, the smell of flowers, carried on the waves of the wind. Hope you have a beautiful day. God bless your website. Best one, I’ve read so far.

  4. Hi Andy, your such a deep man, no pun intended , as you know I don’t know for sure my family background I could be a Princess but my 1/2 Sister on my fathers side, her name was Anne too, we were named after Aunty Anne, but we never grew up together or it would have been confusing I’m sure. Anne dug up the bones of our Ancestors and told me we come from the line of China Morrison, Wow what a wonderful Christian man He was.

    Now Ron’s great Grandfather++++ was transported to Australia for stealing a sack and bridle Hummmm just as well we have cars for transport today 🙂

    Seriously though, as I think about who I am today and Ron and you and all The Body of Christ and why we are, I remember the Truth in the Scripture below….

    1 Peter 2:9-10 But ye are a chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, an Holy Nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

    Christian Love from us both – Anne

  5. Wow. This is great, and you’re a good writer, too. I interviewed my mom a few years ago. She allowed me to ask her all sorts of questions about her, my dad, and our history. I collected it all in a book. It was a great experience. It’s posterity in-hand. I hope you discover so much more than you anticipated.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I hope you will stop again. I am looking for others to write their story about their grandfather, if you would like to write for me I would love it. Thanks again! Andy

      • Hmm, thanks for the offer. I only knew my paternal grandfather, but what type of info are you seeking? I’m not sure what I could draw on with him since he was a reticent fellow and feeble by the time I became an adult. Thanks for the offer!

      • Hey Michael!
        Just looking for things you remember about him that inspire you today. Perhaps somethings that you would like to do as a grandfather in the future.Ask you mother if there are somethings you could share with us about him. You can write it as if your Mother is telling the story if you like. Share an old photo of the two of you if you have one and tell us what you were doing and what it meant to you. Thanks Michael! Send it to

  6. I love this piece, Andy. Well done! My 73-year-old mother and I went to a few graveyards in which my kin are buried. It’s so important for us to keep the memories of our family alive. I got choked up as we weeded around their graves and mom told me what she remembered about them. We also looked at and tended to a few tombstones of strangers. Especially veteran markers. I owe them much more than just a little ground keeping. I owe all veterans eternally for their protecting our freedoms. This is my first visit here so I’m not too familiar with you. But I imagine that you are one of those veterans to whom I referred. If so, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. From my soul to yours. Keep diggin’ for bones, my friend.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it myself and especially the bone digging. Thanks for liking these blogs and especially for the comments! Didn’t catch your name on the “about” section.

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