Red Square

Red Square

As I child, I couldn’t imagine being an organ donor. I thought the idea of someone taking something from my loved one—well, frankly disturbing. I argued with my parents, both of whom had chosen to be organ donors, and boldly stated I would not be one. A number of things along the way have changed my idea and appreciation for organ donors: Two in particular.

The first was my heart surgery in 1998. This was actually my third heart surgery, but the first one where I received a “graft.” A graft is the fancy term for a cadaver valve–in short, an organ that had been donated. At the time, I didn’t really think much about it except for to delight in telling people I had a “dead person valve.”

Dad and I

Dad and I

Then, in 2008, my father passed away. As I stated, my father was an organ donor–and yes, it still bothered me. Then, a little while later, we received a letter and some tokens of appreciation from the company that handled organ donation. I cried. It reminded me that the caring, giving man my father always was, he was continuing to be as he became part of keeping someone else alive.

It was this realization that sent me thinking about my own transplant. The idea that I had a piece of someone else’s heart became something for which I was extremely grateful–for their family’s sake. Through my life, their loved one was continuing to touch people around the world–Literally! It made me curious who they were, and gave me a desire to share with them all the places their loved one had gone.

Somali Refugees in Tanzania

Somali Refugees in Tanzania

At my recent heart check up, I was told my heart was better than ever, and my graft is going strong–16 years later. I asked my cardiologist if it would be possible to find out who’s heart valve I had received, expressing my desire to share with them the life their loved one has continued to live. He explained that, while he understood my gratitude, hospitals purposefully did not keep track of those things so families cannot demand compensation or retract their gift. While I understand, it disappointed me to now be able to say thank you. So I determined to do it here.

Second Degree

Second Degree

So, if your loved one was an organ donor (as I have now chosen to become), this is for you.

In the past 16 years, your loved one’s heart has traveled to 23 different countries, spent three summers working with refugees, and conducted medical clinics in 3 countries, VBS in 2, and directed drama in 5, including performing in schools all over Australia. Travelling with me, they have listened to 112 hours of class and earned a second degree. They have taught 1,600 students, attending sporting events of all varieties, directing theatre and leading clubs. They have read close to 800 books. They have laughed, loved, held seven nieces and nephews. They have cried–burying a grandfather, grandmother, father, uncle, and several former students. They have protested, written letters to the newspaper, attended government meetings, and campaigned door to door.

Field Trip

Field Trip

They have sung, danced, written, painted, created, and designed. And just like you carry them always in your heart, I literally have them in mine. And while I firmly believe in life after death, this is a bit of life added on in the meantime. For all those who will never have a chance to say it: Thank you!

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.

Abbey at Tegernsee

Abbey at Tegernsee

We had decided to take it easy and pack in a leisurely fashion on our last two days. The weather was predicting clouds and rain, so we had made sure to do all of our “must sees” before that time. Anything left would be a bonus. Thursday (8/8/13) was a cloudy day, but we opted to take an afternoon drive into Tegernsee just to check it out.

Lake Tegernsee

Lake Tegernsee

We had driven past Tegernsee many times on trips to and from other places, but had never stopped. This beautiful village is on the shores of Lake Tegernsee and has an Abbey dating back to 746 (not a typo–there’s no 1 in front of that…) The Abbey and the town derive their name from old high German “tegarin seo”, meaning “large lake.” It was also one of the last stands of the SS during World War II. The SS had retreated here to defend against the American forces advancing from Bad Tölz. The Abbey was later adopted as the summer residence of the Bavarian rulers. The Abbey was closed when we were there, so we didn’t get to explore inside (if the public is even allowed in.)

Instead, we browsed around the stores selling Dirndls and Lederhosen, and just enjoyed the peace and quiet. I think this is the biggest adjustment I will have to get used to back in the states. Here, regardless of how big a crowd there is, the noise isn’t very loud. Down by the Abbey, mom commented on the crowd of people at the restaurant who were somewhat loud. Still there were about 200 of them, outside, and I’d say it was quieter than a room of 30-40 in the States.

Additionally, Tegernsee, like most of this area, has beautiful gardens and the Lake. We found a local Gelato place (Eiscafe Cristallo) for one last Gelato.

Gelataria

Gelataria

This place actually had Red Bull Gelato–no, sorry, we didn’t try it. I don’t like regular Red Bull, so I wouldn’t waste a gelato on Red Bull. I had two flavors I couldn’t identify, but looked good. One ended up being a peanut butter and chocolatey flavor, while the other which I thought was Dark chocolate, was actually dark chocolate with black licorice. I hate black licorice, but it wasn’t too bad, once you got over the “Whoa, that’s not chocolate!” response.

Traditionally dressed family

Traditionally dressed family


Finally, the inevitable–it was time to go home. Now, as I sit here, we have finished the bulk of our packing, and are finishing up our stores of food and the last minutes to prepare us to leave tomorrow. When I get home, I will have one week until school starts, and another whole slew of adventures begin. This summer has definitely been a journey–From school ending, to Russia, to Gettysburg’s 150th, to Europe, and full circle to school again.
Rainy Day in Schliersee

Rainy Day in Schliersee

I deeply appreciate those of you who have come along for the ride. The thing I think I will go home with is the blessing of getting to know the people who lived here, struggled, were creative, overcame obstacles, and brought something beautiful to the world. I may not have met them personally, but their stories have impacted mine. And that, I think, is the true meaning of leaving a legacy. So, as this journey ends, I will continue to hunt down the legacies of the men and women who have shaped the world by the light they left behind, all the while trying to shape my legacy to inspire others the way they have. Til then…

Schoenthal kin at the Friedrichstal Museum

Schoenthal kin at the Friendrichstal Museum

When I started this blog in 2011, I had just received a grant to photograph the areas which inspired two different writers. I decided to call it “Legacy Hunting” because I wasn’t just trying to learn names and dates, but to really understand what made these people tick–to truly discover who they were. I was hunting for the legacy they left for us, and so this blog was born.

Since the grant, I have reported on incredible places and the phenomenal people connected with them (when possible), though it has not been about a specific person and the legacy he or she has left. But every once in a while, I get back to the original intent. Yesterday (7/28/13) was one of those days.

Comparing charts with the curator

Comparing charts with the curator

When we first planned on coming to Germany, my mom (who has worked with our family tree for decades) thought it would be an amazing opportunity to connect with our heritage as one branch of our family came from this region. Imagine her surprise when, as she was googling the map of the town, she noticed a business with the Germanic spelling of our ancestors surname (Schoenthal; Shindoll in America). She immediately Emailed the owner to see if there was a chance we were related. He said his brother knew more of the family tree, but we were welcome to visit or spend the night.

Meeting relatives with the family tree

Meeting relatives with the family tree

So, yesterday morning, we got up early and headed into Friedrichstal. We were greeted by Mike and his beautiful wife Tina and a friend Joerg, who would help translate, though Mike and Tina both spoke English better than they thought they did. They had also invited the town museum curator over to help us connect our information with theirs. Tina had made us an incredible spread of delicious sandwiches, and the work began. If you’ve never done family tree work, it involves a lot of finding names and dates and trying to match which person belongs where. In this case, we were trying to connect the Shindolls who came through New York with the Schoenthals who left Germany. After pouring over records and comparing dates, we discovered it was a match, and we were, in fact, related. Mike’s brother had thought we might be in two different lines since one of our ancestors had remarried after his first wife died in childbirth, but we were in the same line (Granted 7 “Greats” back.)

The family tree

The family tree

Mike had also contacted a number of Schoenthal relatives in the area, but the majority were in France at a sister city there. We did, however, get to meet his father and a few other relatives. One relative brought over a hand painted family tree with pictures of the houses our relatives lived in and family crests. Such an amazing treasure. Another point of interest is that in Germany, they only allow tombstones to remain for 25 years. Because of that, we wouldn’t be able to find any of our ancestral graves. They were impressed when mom showed them a picture of one of our relative’s gravestones from 1875.

Huguenots used these lamps to read the Bible in secret

Huguenots used these lamps to read the Bible in secret

One of the things I’ve discovered along my journeys is how rich history becomes when you allow the people to be flesh and blood. What I mean by that is that we often read history as just names and dates we have to memorize. To realize these are real people with real hopes and dreams, real struggles and challenges, who had to make tough choices and struggle against sometimes insurmountable odds–this is what makes history live for me. I had another experience with this when we went to the museum. I remembered learning about the Huguenots in high school and teaching about how they fled religious persecution. I had no idea that was my family. Our family started in Switzerland, moved to France, and finally, after the persecution were offered protection by a Margrave in Friedrichstal. It turns out he was not just being kind, but also knew they had a talent for growing tobacco, so he invited them to settle as a way to get money into the area. It turns out Friedrichstal had good soil for tobacco, and they were successful here.
Relatives

Relatives

They did, however, experience more difficulty when France swept through on various invasions. Having fled to Germany from France, they were considered traitors by the invading French and the enemy by those around them. This also made life difficult. Eventually in 1832, John Daniel Schoenthal, his wife and children, his widowed mother (who did the paper work), and two sisters booked passage to New York. One of John Daniel’s sons–just 1 at the time–was our great (x3) grandfather William Schoenthal.

New family and friends

New family and friends

After seeing the museum and visiting a few other family members, we relaxed and ate some more of Tina’s wonderful food for lunch. It’s an incredible experience to sit with complete strangers who are family–there truly is an instant connection in knowing you’re related, however far back. Such a blessing to just sit and share–to hear about struggles and joys and to learn about the talents that run in our family and see the similarities, even across so many generations. Truly a treat.

Sunset on the Rhine

Sunset on the Rhine

Then, we took a drive to see the sights of Friedrichstal, ending up having dinner at a cafe by the Rhine. Though it was around 10 when we made it back to their house, and we still had an almost two hour drive ahead of us, neither of us wanted to leave. It truly had been an incredible day where we were lavished with care by family we didn’t know we had. Definitely one of my favorite days so far.

David Replica at Palazzo Vecchio

David Replica at Palazzo Vecchio

Today (7/24/13), we set off for the Accademia to hang out with the David. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures anywhere in the Accademia, so I have included a picture of David (the replica) in the spot where the original David stood. The original David was designed to go on top of the Duomo. This explains why his head is larger than it should be for his body. Michelangelo was designing it to be viewed by people on the street from its perch atop the Duomo. But, instead it was placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. It remained there until 1873 when weather damage posed a threat, and it was moved to the Accademia. Words cannot express how amazing it is to be in the same room with this amazing 14 foot tall piece of sculpture. It truly is awe-inspiring. To see marble veins in the hands, the look of concentration on his face as he contemplates Goliath, and yet his easy confidence–it’s an incredible experience. What struck me most is that Michelangelo always worked freehand. Most sculptures of the time sketched out their works on the marble, indicating where they wanted to chisel. Michelangelo believed he was working for the glory of God and would wait until he felt the inspiration for a piece, then work feverishly for days. As he stated, “Many believe – and I believe – that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him.” When carving, he started with the torso and worked proportionally from there, moving from front to back, which caused another artist to describe watching him work like “seeing a figure emerge from the surface of the water.”

Memorial to Lorenzo Bartolini at Santa Croce

Memorial to Lorenzo Bartolini at Santa Croce

Though the David is colossal and impressive, it is not the only impressive work in the Accademia. The Rape (Abduction) of the Sabine Women by Giambologna was in restoration, so we weren’t able to see this one. But, as you walk towards the area which houses the David, you walk alongside a number of other Michelangelo sculptures, affectionately named “The Prisoners.” These are unfinished works of Michelangelo, called prisoners because they have not yet been freed from the marble blocks. They are incredible in their own right, as they show the transition from marble to finished stature. At the end of the line of prisoners is another Pieta, attributed to Michelangelo, but not necessarily his.

Another area of the Accademia is devoted to the plaster work done as a model for sculpture. A number of artists made plaster versions of their work, measured the dimensions, then transferred it to marble. One big surprise I had is that a number of the plaster sculptures were attributed to the artist Lorenzo Bartolini, a name fans of Letters to Juliet will immediately recognize. This Lorenzo Bartolini became a famous portrait sculptor after painting Napoleon Bonaparte and his family. The busts of a number of important people are modeled here.

Cappelle Medicee

Cappelle Medicee

From the Accademia, we headed to Cappelle Medicee. This incredible chapel was designed by Michelangelo, and he has a number of statues there as well, most adorning the sarcophagi of the Duke of Nemours and his nephew. Each tomb has the interred (the Duke or his nephew) arrayed like a Roman captain, while underneath lounge a male and female figure representing day and night. The chapel also housed some amazing reliquaries.

Sepulchre of Michelangelo

Sepulchre of Michelangelo

After the Cappelle Medicee, we tried to go to the Pallazzo Medici Riccardi, but it was closed. (Each of the museums has different days it is closed, as well as hours it closes early.) So, we headed to Santa Croce. (This is another “cover up zone.”) This cathedral is rather plain on the interior, but contains memorials and the sepulchres of some amazing men: Galileo, Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, and Lorenzo Bartolini to name a few. It is incredible to walk around the chapel and see these amazing designs. From the chapel, you can look into a number of side areas containing original frescos. Another room holds reliquaries, including part of the frock of St. Francis of Assisi. From the museum, you go into a central courtyard area where you can see another museum or choose to go to the hall of sepulchres. It is fascinating to see the way people were interred at this time.

Finally, we headed home to rest a bit before picking up the car at Piazzale Michelangelo. When we had left the car, I was in the first spot so I could just pull out to leave. When we returned, four other cars had created their own parking spaces around me. Sigh…So much for easy parking.

This (8/10/11) is officially out last full day in Prince Edward Island. Dark and early tomorrow morning, we will be headed for home. I’m sure there will be a few stops along the way–perhaps on our way home. This afternoon, we headed to Green Gables where the cast of Anne and Gilbert performed a few selections from the musical.

Cast of Anne and Gilbert at Green Gables

It was stunning, despite the challenges of a cramped stage. The girls worried in vain that the cast wouldn’t remember them, but everyone did, so they were able to take pictures with everyone in costume. The cast remained around after the show to talk to the crowd, hand out free tickets for children, and pose. Each was so kind and caring–truly doing the company proud. Check out their website at: http://www.anneandgilbert.com/index.php

Belmont School restored in Avonlea Village

We packed in the middle of our day before heading out for our last Wednesday Evenings with L.M. Montgomery. On the way, I had learned a few more Montgomery sites from my recently purchased guide book, so we decided to check some out. We were going to head to Belmont which boasted the Belmont school where Montgomery taught and two privately owned houses where she boarded, but when we were running short on time, we decided to forego it. Also, we remembered that we had seen the Belmont school in Avonlea Village, so the picture in the guidebook was taken before the move.

Marker at the Bideford School Site

We did, however, find the location of the Bideford school. It had been destroyed long ago, but they had erected a monument there to commemorate the place. Now, it is in the middle of a small community park. The location contains the monument, one stone chair?, an old outhouse, the remains of a pump, and one small picnic table. Just down the road from the Bideford Parsonage Museum, the site makes it easy to imagine Montgomery walking the path to and from school every day. We took the road from the school back to the Bideford Parsonage Museum.

The Wednesday Evenings with L.M. Montgomery meeting was a treat as usual. The hostess began by reading some selections from Montgomery’s journals in which she discussed both the writing of The Story Girl and when she received the published copy seven months later. She mourns the fact that both her grandmother and (Someone else–they said at the meeting it was her cousin Frederica, but she died in 1919–8 years later) couldn’t read the story and wonders if she’ll ever write again. Thankfully, she did. We then read a selection of The Story Girl: Two chapters, which were “A Dread Prophecy” and “Judgment Sunday.” They were lots of fun to perform–at least for our family who captured the principle roles of Beverly King/Narrator (Me), The Story Girl (Abby), Cecily King (Halla), and Aunt Janet (Mom).

Bideford Parsonage Museum

It was another delightful evening, and a bittersweet one. We have truly enjoyed learning and reading together in this small community of enthusiasts, and we will sorely miss being here–especially as next week will be a special presentation by Christina Wyss Eriksson, author of The Anne of Green Gables Treasury. (Robert Montgomery had recommended for us to meet her.) We have dearly loved our time on PEI, and it will be interesting to see how this project continues to unfold.

So, we journey on...

Thanks to all who have come along for the ride. It will continue–though not daily, as I can no longer afford to be up til 1-2 every evening assembling my day’s adventures. I will continue to post poems of Montgomery’s, as well as Robert Bolling’s, with some of the pictures I took to illustrate them. Additionally, I plan to visit Ontario over Fall Break to pick up that piece of Montgomery’s life. In the meantime, I will continue to post the various and sundry people who have left a legacy worth hunting for–wherever I find them to be lurking.

As it was due to be a rainy day today (7/26/11), we opted to stay local and spend a lot of time typing out poetry and catching up on things. Before the rain started, however, we chose to walk up to the Cavendish Cemetery to see where Lucy Maud Montgomery was buried. There are actually other members of her family buried in that cemetery as well.

Grave of Montgomery's Mother and Grandparents

After we checked out the graves, we decided to walk up to the Cavendish Homestead again. I had learned that Montgomery’s relatives, John and Jennie Macneill still own the old place and are actually the ones who fixed up the entire homestead for people to come and learn the true history of L.M. Montgomery’s life. It turned out that the receptionist at the bookstore was the Macneill’s granddaughter and offered to call her grandparents to see if we could schedule an appointment. Instead, her grandmother decided to come over to meet with us.

Montgomery's grave

She gave us a tour of the bookstore with a great many details about her land. After sharing, she took us over to her house and allowed us an interview with her–a wonderful blessing. Her husband was a great-grandson of L.M. Montgomery’s Grandfather (His father was Maud’s first cousin), and he was born on the property. They still live in the house in which he was born. John remembered Maud coming to Sunday suppers, but he was a small boy, and she was an old lady, so he didn’t pay much attention to her.

Jennie Macneill with the Original Post Office Desk used by Montgomery at the Post Office

After a general discussion on L.M. Montgomery’s life and books, I asked her about the obstacles in their journey with this homestead. Jennie shared the major obstacle was changing the minds of the tourists who were set on the fiction of Green Gables being the true origins of L.M. Montgomery and unwilling to see the importance of “a hole in the ground.” I then asked about the funeral since she had mentioned in the presentation that she had attended. This is what she shared:

Macneill Homestead--John was born, and still lives, in the far right house

Both Jennie and John had been attending a one room school house across from the cemetery. Because of its location, the school would be cancelled every time there was a funeral (since recess during a funeral service would not give the appropriate atmosphere.) When Lucy Maud Montgomery died, the whole town felt the loss, since she was quite famous by then. Jennie’s father helped dig the grave in the Cavendish Cemetery, while her mother cleaned the church since a number of important dignitaries were expected for the service. Jennie told her mother that she wanted to attend the service. When her mother asked her why, she responded, “I’ve read her books, and I know her.” (She was eleven at the time.)

At the service, Jennie sat in a pew by the wall. The Rev. John Stirling performed the service. Jennie recalled him being very sad and his voice was shaking. He shared a story from one of Montgomery’s short stories, “Each in His Own Tongue,” which is from The Chronicles of Avonlea. The story is about a father forbidding to let his son play the fiddle and not realizing that was how he shared his feelings. She remembers being upset that he didn’t tell the story right, since it was one of her favorites. She considered going up and telling him to sit down so she could tell the story properly and he could expound on it afterwards, but she didn’t.

Jennie and John Macneill

She also remembered that Ewen Macdonald, Montgomery’s husband wasn’t well, and his sons kept taking him out. In those days, funerals were open casket, and she remembers Rev. Macdonald asking Mrs. Web (Macneill who owned the Green Gables property), “Who is the pretty lady in the casket?” She said he had suffered from bouts of “Religious Melancholy” which today might have been called being bipolar. Lucy tried to hide his condition and also put a great deal of stress upon herself by trying to be perfect at everything she did. Montgomery patterned Emily of New Moon after her own life experience.

It was such a blessing to meet with Jennie. (John was out working on their well which was having some problems.) I’d love to hear his stories as well, but that may be an adventure for another time.