We did not know our story.
We did not know that our father was the ninth child of a farming family—spoiled by sisters old enough to mother him. We did not know how hard they worked, or how hard they loved, or how they had their very own salt cave. We didn’t know that our uncle—dad’s oldest brother–had been a prisoner of war, didn’t know how the family would sit around the radio in the evenings and listen for news, or how one of the few times my grandpa spanked my father was during one such listening when he—small one that he was—would not be quiet.
We didn’t know.
We didn’t know what a perfectionist our grandmother was, how she wouldn’t let her sister-in-law work on her quilts, or how she made extra money making rugs out of rags. We didn’t know how she wasted away from the cancer—how she waited too long.
We didn’t know our grandfather loved a fast car, or how he would shift the thing into neutral at the top of the hill and see just how far he could coast.
We didn’t know that our mother’s father had been married one time before. That he buried his first wife as a young man–that he buried his heart with her. We didn’t know that mom’s mother—our grandmother—had two children out of wedlock before she met our grandfather. Or that he used to beat her when he’d had too much to drink.
We didn’t know that he’d been a coalminer, a gravedigger, or anything else that would put food on the table. We didn’t know how he ran around and when his own wife died of cancer it was my mother that cared for her until the end.
We didn’t know.
We didn’t know our roots ran tangled all over this place. We thought we were untethered…alone. No one told us otherwise.
When I would sink deep in sorrow, grieving our lack of story, I would hug the Bible to my chest and take heart from knowing I was part of a Bigger Story. That I have this Father–whose story started time–and these brothers and sisters and these ancestors in faith. Oh, yes, that is a rich heritage.
And it was these roots—the faith ones—that gave me courage to ask.
On my grandpa’s 98th birthday, I started asking. And people sent stories. Pages and pages–written in long hand, emailed, spoken into my tape recorder at the family reunion, or laughed over and rapidly scribbled down later.
I learned how my grandpa lost his big toe (I didn’t know he was missing one). And how my dad loved candy as a boy. I read letters from my uncle, written while he was serving our country. I poured over wedding photos and aged family snapshots.
With each story collected, I was planted anew. My roots plowed deeper, weaving through the soil of the past until the dust quarried from my blood recognized the curling, twisting roots of these others.
Our stories are intertwined—we share the same blood.
I don’t know why, but it mattered.
And I stand here today with faith roots and family roots anchoring me deep—steeping me strong against the storms of life—and I know…
A story has to begin somewhere.
TELL YOUR STORY.
Don’t hoard it, keep it to yourself, be ashamed, or too sad to tell.Wrap arms around your sweetest, stare long into the fire and tell of your days gone by. Tell of legs strong for running, of favorite pets and bicycle ramps, tell of the lasts, but especially the firsts: first kiss, first car, first broken heart, first loss…
YOUR STORY MATTERS.
Every life a ripple…
Jesus…said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. —Mark 5:19-20