Lilly Endowment


Remembering

Remembering

While I still have a few blogs to catch up on, I wanted to take a break and wrestle through a concept I dealt with on the way home from an incredible week of connections. In the past week, I have been able to spend time with a group of amazing Lilly fellows (those who got the same grant that prompted me to begin this blog). This time, I got to be a part of a group of writers. Through a few short days of sharing our stories, I made incredible new friends that I hope to maintain connections with for a long time. At the end of the same week, I attended a youth group reunion where I was able to re-connect with some amazing people who were a vital part of my journey–some of whom I haven’t seen in at least 20 years. With both of these experiences in the same week, I was driving home just thinking about the connections we make in life.

Youth in the 80's--I'm on the left

Youth in the 80’s–I’m on the left

One of the things that bothered me about the reunion was the pictures of myself where I couldn’t remember what we were doing in the picture. And it bugged me–relentlessly. I have wanted to freeze frame so many moments in my life–to hold on to those connections so they will never be lost. And yet here were moments of deep significance in my journey, and they were gone. As I continued thinking, I started wrestling with why I have this urge to remember–or more importantly, why it bugged me so much to forget. I teach history, I have kept a journal for 25 years, and I blog, I love antiques, I care about people’s stories. Why? Because I don’t want to forget.

As I delved further, I came to another connection–It’s not just that I don’t want to forget. It’s that I don’t want to be forgotten. By remembering others, there comes the hope that someone will be remembering us.

Antiques of Lucy Maude Montgomery

Antiques of Lucy Maude Montgomery

None of us wants to be forgotten. As I traverse graves and look at antique stores, I don’t see what’s there–I see the people behind them. I know they have a story. They loved and lost. They had hard times–some they overcame and some overcame them. But, the bottom line is they lived. And because they lived, they should be remembered. And yet, these grave stones, bits of linens, jewelry and hats, are forgotten pieces of their stories, things that no longer meant anything, so they were cast aside. I think that’s why I hold on to so many things–a note, a picture, a piece of furniture–they help me remember. And I WANT to remember.

Why do I feel that way? I think a friend at lunch today explained that better than I could. “I want my life to count. I don’t want to just be ordinary. I want to make my mark. I want to leave a legacy.” I smiled–In short, she wants to be remembered. She longs that something she does in that dash between birth and death will “count”–that it will be worth remembering. I think we all want that.

Items found on the grounds of Robert Bolling's Chellowe

Items found on the grounds of Robert Bolling’s Chellowe

But, I also smiled for another reason. The title of my blog is legacy hunting. It started out as trying to find out what made poets from 100 to 300 years ago who they were. What influenced their stories? I traveled to the places they lived, went to their houses, viewed their stuff–tried to get inside their head. I was in search of their legacy–the things they’ve left behind for us. But, through the years since I received the grant, it has become so much more than that. It is a collection of experiences, of people and the places they inhabited. It is the story of my life and the people and places who have contributed to it. It helps me remember. And sometime, when I have “shuffled off this mortal coil,” it will leave behind my legacy–my thoughts and feelings so future generations will understand what I experienced, should anyone try to discover “who I really was.”

Me 2014

Me 2014

I’m reminded of the line in Dead Poet’s Society–“The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will that verse be?” This world we were born in was already in motion, and unless Jesus returns, will continue after we’re gone. All we have is life in the dash–in that space between the bookends of birth and death. I think that’s why I love history. George Washington didn’t know he would be George Washington–he didn’t know what he’d mean to history. Yet, through his consistent life, he changed history forever. None of us knows how history will view us, or if we’ll be one of those unnamed masses in the “unknown” category. But, if we will love well, fight for truth and right, and stand for those who cannot, we will have a legacy–whether for one or for millions.

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Colonial Williamsburg

A year ago, I was leaving for Williamsburg to embark on Stage One of my study of Robert Bowling, the Virginia based Colonial Poet. I was able to go due to the generosity of a grant from the Lilly Endowment.

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PEI Coastline

After that, my mom, two nieces, and I headed to PEI to study Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life. This summer, I am right now in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to study another stage of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Life and filming sites from both the Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea Series. Then, I will be heading back to the Virginia area taking some students on a history tour. So, stay tuned. The adventure continues.

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Our home base in Oro-Medonte (near Toronto)

Last Sunday, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a dinner hosted by the Lilly Endowment, the organization that funded my trip to Virginia and PEI. It was an amazing opportunity to present my project to other recipients and see what others experienced. From dancing in Peru, to illustrating children’s books, to writing a ghost story of three beheadings, to running mini marathons in a number of states, each story was a precious adventure and a life changing experience for the recipient.

As this blog is titled Legacy Hunting, and my goal was to study the lives of two individuals who made a profound impact on literature and their day, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Lillys. They recognized that the people who often give the most–pastors, teachers, artists–are seldom acknowedged for their contributions. They realized how tiring it is to continually give and give and give. And they did something about it. This endowment has continued to seek out individuals for the sole purpose of blessing and encouraging them. When I think of a legacy I’d like to leave, I can’t think of a better one than that. So thank you, Lilly Endowment, not just for your generosity, but for your foresight. I am eternally grateful for you and the legacy you continue to leave.