Family History:
Love It and Leave It
© Ferna Lary Mills
This has been a strange week for my psyche.  It started off weird enough as I was doing spring
cleaning (either late this year or early next year depending on how you look at it). But, with the
holidays coming and some family coming in for a visit, well, you know, I just needed to do a
good cleaning.

In the process, I ran across several tubs of old photographs. Now, as a 50-something year old
orphan, not only do I have all of my own old photographs, but photographs my mother
collected, some her mother had, some my father had, some of his mother's photos, and some
from several aunts and uncles, all who have passed on from this life.

That's a LOT of photographs!

My first real "moment" hit me when I began to realize the number of folks in these pictures that I
do not know. I don't have a clue who some of them are, but they were important enough for
someone to hang onto the photos for eons. Some of them date back into the late 1800's. There
are many taken during the war of folks my father served with in the Navy and many that I can
only assume are friends he shared times with during his youth. Now, with no history to attach to
some of these pictures, they are as useless to me as the dust on the mantle. Yet, they were so
important to someone at one time!

Then my second "moment" hit me. There IS going to come a time when I will have passed on,
and my children won't know who most of these folks are either! Many of them died long before
my children were born. People who were so important to ME will fade into history with no one
left to remember them. Then, I realized that there may even come a time when my memory
fades into history long after my death. Descendants that I will never meet face to face will never
know who I was either. Will they look at my photo and say, "Who is this?" and toss it aside?

So I began a quest this week to leave behind a history of both me and my family. I'm organizing
the photos into family groups, labeling them, and adding them to my genealogy notes. My
great-great-great grandchildren may never know ME, but they will have the opportunity to know
my family and how we were related, what we did, where we lived, and the times we lived

Going through these old photographs is bitter-sweet. Grief isn't something you ever get over,
you merely get through it, one year after another. Grief is simply "loss" and you never get over
that feeling of loss for those you have truly loved. Going through these photographs of people
that I loved and some who have been gone for many years, I still feel that twinge of sorrow and
miss them. But there was also much joy, as each photo spawned a memory, an event, or a
story behind the scene. I carry this joy in my heart through the end of time. It will never die, just
as my love for these people never dies. I thank God I still have these memories to put that warm
feeling back into the void in my heart.

Maybe your grief is too new to go through old photographs. There will come a time when you
can do this again. But whether or not your grief is new or old, save those photographs and
mark them for your descendants. Keep the history alive, for who knows, some day someone
may come along in your family, maybe the next generation, or the one after that, who will look
at that one particular photo and SEE the love, even though they never experienced it first hand.

Embrace your family history, cherish the memories, and leave a history of YOU for the loved
ones who will arrive later on down your family tree. Maybe in the history you leave behind, they
will see your faith and your strength in tough times. What greater gift can you ever hope to give

As I look back across the table at the great stacks of photos still waiting for me to categorize, I
realize my greatest joy. The day is coming, and only God knows when that day is, that I will
again see many of these folks face to face in our Heavenly home. What a reunion that will be,
and I can't wait to tell them what I left behind for future generations to find.

May God bless you and bring you Peace.


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