did it go?
Fresh Ink 2004)
During a vacation in Virginia
one summer, I visited the farmhouse that had been my mother’s family home. It
stood, uninhabited, surrounded by gently, rolling hills, no other house in sight. As
I sat on a small, stonewall by the walk leading from the country road to the house, I visualized a very different scene.
I remembered the happiness I once felt
when my large, loving family of Irish descent gathered for our annual family reunions.
Long tables were filled with fried chicken, ham, fresh vegetables, homemade rolls and every kind of dessert. Older relatives sat on chairs, and younger ones ate on blankets spread out on the lawn. Children played ball in the field while some fished in the creek nearby.
Babies were rocked on the porch. There was continual talking, laughing
and even singing inside the house around the pump organ. It was life at its fullest.
None of the original twelve members
of the family are living today. On that summer day, it seemed inconceivable to
me that those vital, full-of-life, interesting people were no longer here.
For most of my life, I was so involved
in just plain living that I didn't notice the world I once knew was irrevocably changing.
At first, it was subtle. An aunt, uncle or grandparent died prematurely,
and I was saddened, but my life remained basically the same.
By the time I entered my fifties, changes
began to occur rapidly. Our children grew up.
We became grandparents. It was the more frequent deaths of loved ones,
however, that forever changed the fabric of my life. With their deaths came the
realization that life, as I'd known it, would never be the same. It could still
be wonderful, gratifying and fulfilling, but it would never again have the same essence it once had, because certain people
were no longer with us.
Because of my spiritual beliefs, I know
where my loved ones have gone, and they don't feel that far away. But where did
their loving lives go? How could a whole way of life disappear?
Writers throughout the ages have addressed
these questions, some poetically. Wordsworth said, "It is not now as it hath
been of yore/turn wheresoe'er I may/ by night or day/ the things which I have seen I now can see no more."
Where did the past go? The answer is simple. It lies within each of us. When a particular memory is activated, I relive moments that were dear to me. The sky is once again a limitless blue. I smell the flowers
and honeysuckle and taste the ripe strawberries of my youth. Beloved faces once
again smile at me, and I feel warm and safe in the memory of loving embraces.
The scene of the past at that farmhouse
in Virginia still clearly exists in my mind, and I've been told those memories will become even more vibrant as I grow older.
My past is not lost forever. It exists and is accessible whenever a nostalgic moment touches my heart.
When I am gone, my life will live in the
minds of my children, grandchildren and friends. Scenes from today will become
their memories. From that perspective, today takes on a whole new meaning, because
it will live within the hearts and minds of those who loved me.