Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Than Just A Family Story

The kids had Fall break over the weekend (5 days off in a row!), so we got to go visit my family in St. Louis. My grandma has had a rough year and recently moved into my folks' house. It was really nice for my family to get to spend some real time with her, since we have rarely been able to make visits across the country to visit her in California. Before I went to bed (super late on that last night in town), my mom got out a little album that they put together of family snapshots.

You know how there are some stories that you hear about growing up, but you really can't grasp the true horror of it until you have lived life a little? We revisited one of the tragic stories of our family history as we went through the album and as I was telling Jeremy about it later, the depth of anguish I felt over this story surprised even me. Here it is:

As we were going through the photos, there was one of this beautiful, goofy, adorable little girl with short, tousled, blond hair, and the typical knock-knees and giant teeth of a pre-teen, holding a lit-up birthday cake and grinning ear-to-ear. My aunt Nancy. It was her eighth birthday.

When my mother was very small, and my uncle was an infant, the family was involved in a terrible car wreck. In this wreck, my grandma's pelvis was crushed and she was told that she would never walk again. My aunt Nancy was thrown from the car and died on impact (this was in the early 60s when seatbelts weren't even installed in every car). My grampa, who has always struggled with depression couldn't care for the entire family, so the oldest three children stayed home while my mom and uncle Mark, who were babies at the time, had to be cared for by separate friends and family members until my grandparents could get things back under control in their lives. The oldest child, my aunt Debi cared for the home and the other two siblings, while still going to school and maintaining her grades. At the age of 12. This one event set them back for years as people and as a family. The accident happened two months to the day after the photo was snapped of Nancy's 8th birthday.

Grampa and Gramma made it through the tragedy. My Gramma walks. Nancy is a well-used family name, in honor of the aunt/sister/daughter that everyone loved and missed. It has occurred to me that on Tuesday, my son Daniel will be the exact same age as my aunt Nancy was when she passed away. And I now dream of the beautiful little girl frozen in time, waiting in The Father's arms for the rest of her family to join her in their own times.


timpani76 said...

It seems like every family has sad stories like this that just hit you in the gut sometimes. I have so many in my family, that it would take while to list them all.

I also remember reading historical account that said things like 10 live children, and 3 that did not survive infancy. I read that before having kids, and did not think much of it. Now that one sentence just makes me tear up thinking of what the mother had to go through to lose three babies.

lizS said...

wowza. you're right too. we have tons of stories in my family as well that i just didn't get the true horrific scope of until i got older.

Mary said...

T- It seems so unnatural for us today that children should die at all. We are appalled and brokenhearted when this happens (as I'm sure they were in the past), but before vaccinations and sanitation standards, children died all the time ("Now I lay me down to sleep..."). It's tragic any time it happens, we've just been sheltered from it in our lifetimes. Having said that, I can't imagine how hideous it would be to go through this experience. My Gramma did say that she saw Nancy after the accident, and that it was the best thing that could have happened because Nancy wasn't in there anymore. The experience allowed her to let Nancy go. If she had not seen her body, my gramma may never have been able to heal.

Dana Cheryl said...

Your post helps me to realize the importance of knowing family history so that we don't forget...

Life in Appalachia is different from the rest of the country. I can't really even explain it. People just have to experience it before they can fathom Appalachian life with its challenges and beauty.

Technology didn't come to the mountains of Kentucky until my mom's generation. Even then is came slowly. Both of my grandmothers had 12 children (six girls/six boys each) but one of my grandmothers lost three of her little ones. Two girls and one boy but she endured. At the end of her mortal life I was so blessed to be at her bedside and I asked what she was thinking about most. She was overjoyed, literally smiling & laughing, so happy to be seeing her sweet little ones again and my grandpa too...

It humbles me to think of the challenges, pain, and sorrow endured by my grandmother who I so dearly loved. Unless we take the time to ask we'll never really understand the events that shaped these people who came before us and helped us be who we are today and who our children will become. We all are living a legacy even if we don't know it.