sharing your stories and remembering your children
By Nick Carrington
Hope Blooms Editor
My parents have lived in the same county since before I was born. When I visit them, I see the relics of my childhood. The McDonald’s where we’d stop for milkshakes after church on Wednesday nights, the marina where I would feed ducks with my grandparents, the local burger place that serves patties so small that you must order three or four to get your fill. These places warm my heart, remind me of how blessed I was growing up. I want my kids to understand that history, the way it shaped me for better and worse.
But each time I go home, I also pass a graveyard on a hill. The cemetery rises behind an old country church that couldn’t seat more than 50 people, with a parking lot made for 20. The largest store within a few miles is the Family Dollar, a relatively new addition to an area where the houses look more like emergency shelters than homes.
In that graveyard lie the remains of my beloved grandparents and their two sons, one who died in infancy and another from cancer in his 30s. I have so much to tell my children about my grandparents. My grandmother would rush to our house every time we were sick, taking care of us while my mother worked at the local hospital. She made our favorite dishes and covered us with blankets. My grandfather would pick my friends and I up from the golf course and take us to dinner, paying for the food every single time. He’d then drive us home, about half an hour away.
I never had the chance to know my uncles well. I have only one memory of the one who died as an adult. He was coughing in bed, the room full but filled with silence. The end was near, and truth be told, he already looked like death. His brother, the one he never truly met, was his twin, taken by a condition that could be addressed today.
There are no memories of them to share with my kids. No legacy of kindness and sacrifice. And yet, sometime soon, I will take my kids to that graveyard and stand them in front of those family tombstones. I plan to tell them all about their great grandparents, how they loved me well. How their home felt like my own. But I will also tell them about their great uncles, how precious they were to our family even though they were gone too soon.
My kids will hear about the truck my family owned, once my uncles, and how my mother cried the night someone stole it and crashed into a tree because it was all we had left of him. They’ll hear the tales, as well as I can remember them, of how hard my grandparents worked to save their 9 month old and how their love for him never stopped, even as they grieved his death more than 50 years later. My kids will see how much I wanted to know my uncles, how our family feels so hollowed out, so thin without them.
That cemetery behind the old, white church reminds me that we dignify those we’ve lost because they are a part of our families, our loved ones, and us. To honor them all will do good to my heart, but it will also help my children understand how to honor their four cousins who died in the womb, the ones they never played with. We remember them all, knowing that while gone, they are still our family, still a part of our story.