Yesterday was remembrance Sunday and it brought to mind a post I wrote for Instagram last year. In the post I wrote ‘Today on Remembrance Sunday we remember those who have given their lives in service of our country during war. We honour and remember their stories, lives and sacrifice. The power of storytelling enables a person to live on past their time with us and is a gift we need to cherish and protect. Let us not forget those we have lost, those who continue to serve and those who live in the shadow of loss.’
The gift of memories and the stories of those who have gone before us has resonated with me deeply during the past few weeks. My maternal grandmother, Eirwen Reston, who we called ‘Nannie’ was born in 1919 and lived through World War 2; she married Frank Long, my grandfather, in 1944. He served in Burma as part of the Allied campaign, but this is all I know about his service. Both my Nannie and Grampa are now gone, and sadly, many of their stories were not told or passed down to us.
There are so many questions I would ask them now. There is so much unknown or unanswered about their time, their experiences and their lives. My younger self was either not interested or too shy to ask. When we know there has been heartache and pain in a person’s life, it is difficult to broach subjects that may be sensitive or cause someone to relive that hurt. That said, if I could go back in time, would I ask those difficult questions and have those hard conversations with them? Absolutely. But that is the bittersweet beauty of hindsight.
In the light of chances lost, I am now piecing together the few facts I have of my grandparents, via various family tree websites and search engines. It is fascinating how each member of the family is linked, I am learning names, ages and places that are part of my history. It gives me a sense of grounding, belonging and of being a part of something bigger. Whilst this can never replace the real conversations and storytelling that could have happened, it is a positive way to move forward with our family story.
I cannot change the past, and so I choose now to share stories with my children and family that are still here. Telling them as much as I can remember, linking the stories to our old photographs, places and experiences. This is an unfolding process which will take place over time. Revisiting memories can bring both joy and sadness, laughter and tears. But I choose to be brave in sharing the good, the bad and the ugly – it is all important and all part of who I am, and in turn, who they are.
This week I discovered a poem, I attended a co-working writing session with people from all over the world organised by the brilliant Tara Mohr. Tara introduced this poem to us as part of the writing warm up. It fits so perfectly with how I am feeling right now and this post. Our lineage, our ancestors, our stories. Below is the part that spoke to me most:
Reconciliation: A Prayer by Joy Harjo
Oh sun, moon, stars, our other relatives peering at us from the inside of God's house walk with us as we climb into the next century naked but for the stories we have of each other.
We sing our song which we've been promised has no beginning or end.
I hope to learn the songs of my past, of my grandparents, of my relatives and sing these to my family. I encourage you to do the same, find out what your song is, where it has come from and sing it out for future generations to remember.