On Friday, my 86-year-old aunt Lu suffered what the doctors termed a catastrophic stroke. As I write this column, I’m sitting by her bed in the intensive care unit, waiting for her to be transferred to hospice.
Odd, isn’t it, that at a time like this, my thoughts turn to genealogy—but maybe not so odd, considering Aunt Lu is my oldest living relative and has been the teller of so many family stories. She is the one I phoned when I wanted to verify a detail or just ask “do you remember?”
Knowing that I will never get to ask those questions again, I can’t tell you how glad I am for the many hours we spent together talking about the family’s history. And I can’t tell you how happy I am to be the keeper of the family stories.
As I sit in this hospital room, friends of the family come by and over the course of our conversations, they ask about Aunt Lu. Isn’t it interesting that the people who love her want to know more about her past—about her life as a young girl, her parents, her place in the family’s history. And I realize how much I enjoy sharing the family stories that came to me through her.
Today, genealogy isn’t just a hobby—it’s a healing process. The more we talk about my aunt and the family’s past, the more at peace I feel. In the moments I have alone with her, I tell her—although the doctors say she can’t hear me—how much I loved the stories and what a blessing she has been. Who would have thought that the stories of the past would bring me such comfort today?
Nancy Hendrickson is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine. She also is a family historian, freelance writer and the author of two astronomy books. Her Web site is at www.ancestornews.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org