My dear Aunt Alice died yesterday. She was ancient old but it was sudden and she was precious and I'm thinking of her tonight. Aunt Alice was our family's historian; the sister of my mother's father, she kept copious notes of lineage, births, marriages and deaths and if you showed any interest at all in the family's history she would send you a manila envelope filled with photocopied notes, certificates, pictures and handwritten letters. Aunt Alice knew where she had come from and she understood that if a family's story wasn't told it would not live on.
My Uncle Bob is buried in Meeteetse, Wyoming along with all of the other Niles'. My Grandpa is there, my Grandma will be buried there and my Mom bought hers along with Bobby when they found out he was sick. I would love to be buried there also and am still trying to convince Jeff to let us buy our plots there (they are $100 a plot for out of towners but Mom thinks she can get us the $50 resident deal). Every Spring when I go to Montana, Mom and I make the 2 hour trip to Meeteetse and leave flowers for Uncle Bob and then wander around the cemetery checking out all the other Niles plots and linking them up with this person and that person. Just a few months ago we were discussing some family mystery and said that when I came out this Spring we would go see Aunt Alice and get some questions answered that my Grandma didn't know, as she had only married into the family. I am saddened beyond words that we won't get that opportunity. Even more so I am filled with regret that I will never get the answers about my great-Grandmother Christine that I had hoped for. What happens to Alice's memories now that she's gone?
I guess the application of this is clear: write your family history. Even if it doesn't seem like much to you now it may to generations down the road. With that said, I'm not writing this tonight to send a message or to help you see the light; I'm writing to give catharsis to my sadness and to pay honor to a woman whose simple life, simple values and beautiful spirit left an indelible print on my life.
May we all live a life that when we finally make it Home a great-niece, 60 years our junior, mourns our death.