On Valentine’s day of this year a very special 18-year-old was on his way home from boarding school. It was his eighteenth birthday. He was ten minutes away from home when he was in a head on collision, that took his young life. Two cars, two lone drivers, to fatalities. Needless to say, his parents, brother, extended family, school mates and friends are feeling devastated. His grandmother wrote the following words, that I considered so touching, that I wanted to share them with the world. Kerry, who is mentioned, is the young man’s mother. The author of the thoughts presented here is my very special first cousin, Donna Sackett.
I love history. Not just the facts, but the stories behind the facts. The people. The stories of the people make up history—not just the famous (and infamous)—all of our stories make up our history.
I love walking old cemeteries, looking at ancient, and not so ancient, tombstones; wondering about the stories behind the facts. Sometimes the tombstones leave a clue: “Beloved Wife,” “Our Darling Boy”—Scott broke his leg on that one when he was two. I’ve heard it described as so many stories in the “dash”, that little line between the date of birth and date of death. So much history in the dash.
I stood at my grandmother’s grave in a small country cemetery and looked across the rolling hills. I could see the green roof of my grandparents’ farmhouse. Five generations of my family are buried there. The dashes include a Civil War veteran, a camp cook who adored children, a high school football star. The farmhouse is gone now, and that little cemetery is surrounded by the neighborhoods of southeast Arlington, Texas.
Next to the Beiseker-Levelland Seventh-day Adventist Church in Alberta is a small country cemetery. Many of Kerry’s ancestors are buried there. So is Sam McGee (Google “The Cremation of Sam McGee” sometime). I have walked that cemetery many times in the past 20 years looking at the names—the same last names as friends from Union College who were from North Dakota. I learned from Kerry’s dad many of their stories included escaping religious persecution in Europe and starting over again in North America. Some settled in North Dakota, while other family members travelled on to Alberta. Never, ever, ever, ever did I think I would be walking that cemetery to visit the grave of my grandson. So many stories in the dash that is eighteen years long. So much life. So much joy.
Those dashes—some are short; some are long. My twin sisters’ dash in the Texas cemetery spans only two days. Kerry’s grandma’s dash in Alberta spans ninety-nine years. Every dash is a story. Every dash is important. It’s important for us still here. Our stories are part of history, too. And oh, how I long for the day when the dashes have no end, but continue on for eternity.