Sunday, May 30, 2010

Resources for Writers #19: For Us the Living

There was no Resources for Writers last Monday due to the advent of Aubrey Olivia Wilma, 7lbs. 11oz., who joins big sister Hanna as Mimi's sweet girls...

But now, on to the business at hand...

Being a genealogist, I naturally have a fascination with the past and find many story ideas in the lives of my ancestors. Here are a few sources that I find particularly useful:
(1) Obituaries--although the information/disinformation here is only as good/bad as the provider
(2) Death certificates--Each holds the story of a life, more particularly how it ended, opening up a multitude of scenarios...the scourge of tuberculosis in the first half of the 20th century, the polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s, relatively minor illnesses that became fatal until the advent of antibiotics, major illnesses that became preventable with inoculations. There are the tragic accidents, homicides, suicides, and even the occasional blanks. I find the places of death particularly poignant, especially a lonely hotel room. Follow this link to view certificates in selected states.
(3) Cemeteries--I find cemeteries to be places of incredible peace. When I wander among tombstones, looking for those pertinent to my family lines, my mind is filled with questions about the choices of epitaphs and marker styles and the souls who rest under green grass or barren soil. Sadder, of course, are the neglected plots in public ground, more commonly known as Potters Field. What circumstances brought them there? Poverty? Lack of family? Something beyond imagination?
(4)  Online cemetery databases--simply type in the name of a county and state and the word 'cemeteries'.
(5) Veteran memorial pages--local, state, Medal of Honor winners, particular military units. These are guaranteed to humble and inspire you.

I debated writing about this particular resource lest I be considered morbid or, even worse, disrespectful of those who have gone before. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In acknowledging death, we are honoring life with remembrance...and for those who lie unremembered, with compassion. I never leave a military cemetery without tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I cannot hear "Taps" played without sobbing. But I also carry away with me a sense of gratitude and peace and an aching to know their stories.

In deciding to write this, I considered the appropriate timing of Memorial Day when we can remember not only those who "gave up all their tomorrows for our todays" but also those whom we have personally loved and lost. I like to think they would feel that being immortalized in some way in a story is a tribute to and a continuation of their lives.

One of my favorite old songs that my grandfather used to sing was "When You and I Were Young, Maggie". I sang it to my babies (and now my grandbabies) as I rocked them. The last verse says, A city so silent and lone, Maggie, where the young and the gay and the best...in polished white mansions of stone, Maggie, have each found a place of rest." It speaks of life and joyful remembrance...and when I take an idea from any of the ideas listed above, I try to leave the reader with a feeling of triumphant closure.

So today when you remember and, hopefully, say "Thank you" to our veterans, consider searching for that next story idea is a place where the story has ended...or has it?












5 comments:

Maeve said...

Wonderfully thoughtful post. Thank you. :)

Mary Ricksen said...

We used to lie in the grave yard across the street from a cousins house in Rutland, Vermont. I love looking at the nite sky, it was very peaceful!

K9friend said...

I quite agree. Everybody who's ever lived has a story. It's up to us to tell it!

Pat
www.critteralley.blogspot.com

韋于倫成 said...

天下沒有走不通的路,沒有克服不了的困難,沒有打不敗的敵人。........................................

文佩齊華 said...

你不能決定生命的長度,但你可以控制它的寬度..................................................