Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pioneers of a Different Kind

First off, you have to know that my mother did family history work. That is almost an understatement. To say she did it is like saying streams run down mountains. My mother did rivers of family history research. To prove it, I can show you five large books that are the result of her work. A mountain of published books written by my mother about our ancestors, each one at least two inches thick!

I remember helping to search through graveyards and microfilm, looking for names, dates, birthplaces, marriages. Sometimes there was success. Mostly I was bored. Once we had a class at church about it. It seemed that my friends all had ancestors who were Pioneers. I wanted a Pioneer ancestor! I wanted ties to someone who trekked for miles with a handcart or a wagon. You know, the ones they sing songs about? I remember asking my mother, but she had not found any of those handcart folks in our ancestry. None. My youthful desire to know more was crushed.

You don't have to push a handcart,
Leave your fam'ly dear,
Or walk a thousand miles or more
To be a pioneer!

(To Be A Pioneer, text by Ruth Muir Gardner)

It has taken a trek of decades, but I have discovered pioneers of a different sort. My grandparents, my father’s parents, were modern pioneers from the midwest. They left dusty Illinois and made a trek of their own, to the clear California air (ironic, isn't it?). It is there that they made camp and where my grandfather built a large apartment complex in Inglewood and a beautiful cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains. That much I know for sure. I realized there are gaps in what I know, and I wanted to know more.

My Grandpa Fisher died when I was four years old, shortly after completing construction of that cabin in the woods. My younger sisters never knew him on this earth. On my family photo wall hangs their original wedding picture. A daily reminder of my grandmother. She was widowed fairly young..,younger than I am now. Nearly all of my memories are of her as a single woman. Just as we marvel at the strength of handcart pioneers, I have marveled at my grandmother’s strength. I wonder how she managed. I remember visiting her regularly in that Inglewood apartment which she now managed alone, my Dad working on her car, fixing this or that. I know my Aunt and Uncle helped her in the same ways. I realized how much we are alike and how much we have in common...and those are two different things. My boys, including step-sons, are always willing to help, just as my Dad helped Grandma, I am filled with a sudden deep gratitude for all of them and their service. But I wonder still, how did she do it?

My Grandma is the pioneer in my family! We are alike in that we are both gregarious people. She loved to travel, as do I. So many little things I find myself doing that I recognize as her habits. But still I wonder, did she lean on her faith? Did she struggle to adjust her cooking to just for one person? Did she find it hard to sleep sometimes? When her little poodle greeted her as she came home from work, did she wish for someone else’s greeting? How I wish she had written something…..

This will never resolve for me. Those who are gone are gone; we don’t suddenly find their thoughts written in places they did not write them.

But I can write. You can write too! Why leave our children wondering what we did to make it through? We can leave a record for our children’s children’s children (mine is this blog). A record of all of our thoughts and dreams. Our treks through mountains and along rivers, our valleys of mistakes, our triumphs on the peaks. The Joy we have in our posterity (wow…think of that, our children’s children reading about how we loved them!).

And like pioneers of old, I hope to leave a testimony of what gets me through. In every time and season, I want my beloveds to know this:
There is no experience or situation on earth that you cannot get through when you look to God. His promises are sure. He keeps his covenants, so when you keep your covenants with Him, everything will turn out for good. Even when you cannot, with your earthly eyes, see the result, I promise, it will all work out. That’s the faith of a pioneer….knowing God leads the way.