St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

If You Don't Remember ....

I hear ethereal whispers, persuasive, soft and still, 
"Daughter, if you don't remember us, who will?"…

I don't know who first uttered this quote, but they could have been talking about me.  I hear the whispers of the past calling me to preserve their stories for the future.  I hear the whispers from the grave.

Today, I received a letter from Sweden.  This time, I had no clue when I looked at the return address.  With anticipation, I opened the letter.  It was from the granddaughter of my oldest living cousin in Sweden.  Stina's grandfather was the brother of my great grandmother who immigrated to America back in 1879.  We've been gone from Sweden for over a hundred years now.  Still, I hear the whispers calling me.

Stina is now in her 80s and neither reads nor speaks English.  Thankfully, her granddaughter has a fairly good command of English.  In the letter, she has a few surprises.  At least, I was surprised.  She tells of the area in Stockholm where my great grandmother's brother lived.  It was a poor area.  Now this in itself is not surprising.  If you read the history of Sweden, being poor was quite common.  So common that it is estimated 4 of 5 residents emigrated during the late 1800s to escape the poverty.  Many chose to come to America.  There is no doubt in my mind that had my great grandparents stayed in Stockholm, they too would have lived their lives in poverty.

The surprises in the letter come from sharing some of the life that Jonas Petter and his family had.  My heart ached for these children as I read the words of my cousin.  

It's interesting to learn about our past.  It's interesting to be able to talk about the past.  It's amazing when we can shed our rose colored glasses and look at the failings of our ancestors.  It's phenomenal when we can share their triumphs.

The past is calling me.  My family of old is whispering for me to tell their stories.  Is yours?  Sit still and listen.  You may be surprised.

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