Thanks to Christine of Abbey of the Arts Poetry Party for bringing forward memories of people long ago!
they come like ghosts
floating in my
like autumn fog
death separates us now
all except the memories
holding them in
static lives of yesterday
in their gray world
a universe apart
as close as thought
a gray fog box
©Ruth Jewell, September 13, 2010
While I love fall and all that it brings, fog, changing leaves, and cool sunny days, the memories of times past also come, which can be both lovely and sad all at the same time. So many of my friends and family have passed away in fall and early winter and they often come like the fog to present themselves in a ghostly parade to remind me of times past, both the good and the not so good. As I watch them enter my mind’s stage I am surprised to find that most of them are women, strong, defiant, and determined to change the world they lived in.
There is my maternal great-great grandmother who was determined that her family would stand with President Lincoln in the great fight against the south and my paternal great-great grandmother who wanted only to live with her family in freedom, so she left Georgia to travel north while the rest of her family made the terrible trek to Oklahoma on the “Trail of Tears.” Then there is my maternal grandmother, the first woman to complete college in my family, a Suffragette, proud of her role in getting women the right to vote. And, I can’t leave my mother out, who, during WW II, worked in the steel mills making rivets for air planes. I am the inheritor of all of their strength of will, their courage to get things done, and their desire to leave this world in better shape than they found it.
One other woman has a prominent place in my memory, my first grade teacher, Miss Wooster. She was a teacher of great courage and compassion, two traits that go well together. Even though she had one arm paralyzed from an accident she never gave up her dream of being a teacher and for that I am eternally grateful. I started school the fall after a devastating accident that left me scared and timid. I was still wrapped in bandages when I started my first day of school and to have this kind, tall woman reach down with her one good arm, hold me and tell me that we were going to have so much fun that day meant more to me than anyone could possibly know. Her example of never giving up became the model for my life. Miss Wooster taught me to hold my own against the inevitable onslaught of teasing, ridicule and insensitivity that I would face all of my life. Without her I wouldn’t have survived my childhood whole in spirit.
There are a few men who hold special places in my memories, like my great-uncle Charlie who was an itinerant preacher of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). His circuit was the triangle that made up the coal mining fields of southern Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Northern West Virginia and in a strange stroke of fate he baptized by father, unknowing that dad would marry his favorite niece 12 years later. It could not have been an easy pastorate for great-uncle Charlie, mine disasters, starvation, and no health care would have meant more funerals than births and weddings. But the stories of great-uncle Charlie say he taught and comforted those that needed both and celebrated when he could.
There is also my Father who was one of the most spiritual people I knew. He taught me to respect all of creation, to be open to the words of other faiths, and to treat all people as brothers and sisters in the Holy Spirit. Even though he never made it past 6th grade he taught me the value of reading good books, to never let someone else make up my mind for me, to never let anyone tell me that their way of understanding the scriptures was the only way. Dad told me to read and study and make up my own mind, but to be open to the changes that come from growing in the world. To dad I owe my Disciples Faith; a strong sure faith that is open to a world of ideas and beliefs and how they influence me, helping me to grow stronger in my own beliefs and faith.
Each and every one of those ghostly memories is a part of me, my grounding in this world and the rocks of my path to the next. If even one of these amazing individuals had been missing from my memory I would not be who I am today. Each memory is a thread in my own fabric of life, albeit a cloth that has a few holes and loose threads but overall beautiful and strong. I owe that beauty and strength to those who have gone before me, those I follow, and those I have inherited so much from.
As I try to see into the fog of the future, I wonder who I am passing my legacy onto. Am I, will I, play a role in someone else’s life. That is an awesome responsibility to know, and maybe not know, what you do and say may influence another life. Doesn’t that thought just want to make you crawl into a corner and not be seen for fear you will cause someone harm? But, what I have to remember is that when I choose to do nothing someone is still watching and learning just as much as when I act and that means the choice to act or do nothing is always fraught with “what ifs.” Life is just one big IF, and strength comes from boldly stepping out with faith and not looking back.
©Ruth Jewell, September 13, 2010