Northern Lights: Preserving The Past For The Future
Published: Aug 18, 2014 4:04 pm
In my new life five years following my myeloma diagnosis, I am still coming to grips with what it means to me to have a cancer that could flare up again at any time.
The fact that I have my blood tested for myeloma markers every three months, and meet with my oncologist shortly thereafter to go over the results of these tests, tells me that this is not just idle speculation.
While I try to just relax and enjoy life at a steady pace, sometimes my worries get the better of me. ‘What if I get really sick again and am thrown back into intensive chemotherapy? What if I can no longer have a normal life due to bone breakage and pain? What if, what if ... ?’
I try not to dwell on the future, since of course it is an unknown. I don’t believe in ‘borrowing trouble,’ but I realize that with myeloma, one could realistically expect that additional medical interventions may be needed. And, of course, nobody knows when that might be!
So I am in the habit now of going in three-month planning stages. If I am well as shown by the test results, I breathe a big sigh of relief and plan the next three months as far as travel, commitments, volunteering, and anything else in my life that involves planning.
One of the things on my planning wish list is to leave my family’s history in order for the next generation and any other family members who might be interested. I have several boxes of photos, memoirs, and genealogical ‘trees’ that stretch back almost 200 years. Somehow I became the recipient of much of this material because I have always been interested in history.
A couple of decades ago, I started preserving some of the material by photocopying and getting prints made at a shop that specialized in historical photos.
Nowadays, however, with our amazing computers, it’s quite simple to scan photos, save them as digital files, and send them as attachments.
So one of my summer projects has been to start scanning the historical photos and sending them out to the family members who are interested in them. When one comes across such items as a studio photo, dated 1860, of one’s great great grandfather, or a snapshot dated 1919 of a teacher in Alaska with a team of well-fed sled dogs, of course it’s interesting!
I have a picture of my maternal grandmother serving as a nursing sister in Malta in 1916, in a hospital tent with her ‘boys’ (injured soldiers). My great grandparents from another branch of the family tree were lighthouse keepers at Point Clarke, Ontario, on Lake Huron, in the 1890’s. My husband, children, and I visited there when the children were younger. The lighthouse is now an historic site with a small museum. That certainly brought some family history to life for us.
Last year’s severe flooding in our area, and reports on the news of people being evacuated from areas due to forest fires, made me aware of how easily paper copies of our past can be lost. Old files can also be lost through the passage of time. Photos fade and sometimes are barely legible after a hundred years of storage.
All these facts convinced me that making digital copies of our records would be a really good idea. And who knows, it may also stimulate other family members to do some writing and reading about the life and times of our forebears. That’s what they would have wanted, I think – just to be remembered by their children and grandchildren, and by future generations.
I had procrastinated on doing anything with my boxes of family history for many years, because I was really busy with daily life. Then, when I was first diagnosed and being treated for myeloma, the last thing on my mind was to sort through old files. I had enough to do just to stay on top of what I really needed to get done.
Having myeloma has nevertheless been a ‘wake-up call’ for me to tackle this project, because I consider it important to preserve at least photos and important dates of my family history. My parents, who both live in the area, and others in my extended family can still help me gather the necessary information.
Now seems the right time to sort out my ‘family tree’ files. I am relatively healthy and have the energy, both mentally and physically, to go through my boxes of family history. If I get sick again, all bets are off, since I just don't know how I will feel. I am not anticipating any huge changes in my health, but, as I mentioned earlier, no one ever knows what the future may bring.
And finally, I somehow find it comforting to look at all the pictures and writings of my ancestors and think about what their lives were like.
I hope that future generations will feel the same way.
Is anyone else putting their historical house in order? Do you have any suggestions as to how best to do this?
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The quotation for this month is from Ellen Goodman (born 1941), an American journalist and syndicated columnist, who said: “This packrat has learned that what the next generation will value most is not what we owned, but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we loved. In the end, it's the family stories that are worth the storage.”
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