One of the things that keeps me awake at night is the fear that I won’t have time to empty everything that needs to passed on out of my mind and my computer and into someone else’s before I die. It’s one of my greatest legitimate fears. Sometimes I imagine how the the prophets in the scriptures felt as they kept the records and preserved them for future generations. They were serious about their work, and I am too.
They say that when a person dies, it’s like a library burns down. The older I get, the greater the burden I feel to empty my library into the public domain. These last few weeks, I’ve spent many long days at the BYU Family History Library using their wonderful scanners to capture images and documents and histories I’ve been gathering.
This week I worked on scrapbooks from my grandparents and my parents. Every page, every image is like stepping back into time. My children will remember my Dad as a stooped old man who has trouble walking. He wasn’t always that way. This week I watched him grow up. I watched Grandma and Grandpa welcome him into the world, their first son, born in America! I watched Grandpa pulling a plow behind a horse in our family vineyards, as they tried to make a better life than they left in Germany. I watched their little family grow, Arthur, then Henry, then the twins–Wilfred and Ruth. I watched as they put flowers on little Ruth’s grave. Then Franklin came to complete the family. These four strapping boys grew to hard working good men.
This week I picked my Dad and his brothers out of each of their class photos at Windsor School, then Reedley High, the same schools I attended. I watched Dad jumping for rebounds on the basketball court. I scanned his varsity letters and his watched his departure for college. I saw the napkin from his first date with Mom, and watched their courtship unfold at UC Davis. His entire life, start to present, passed before me–the good, the bad, the hard–captured in photos, newspaper clippings, memorabilia and documents.
There are stories to be told here. There are lessons to learn. There are things to remember–to keep and to preserve.
I also have some history of our family members in Germany. They sent photos and postcards and letters to their American cousins, capturing their lives not just for my grandparents, but for me. My grandparents received photos because they were gone from the family there–what a gift, that we have them!As I worked on these treasures, I wondered how they came to be so nicely organized into albums. Many of the photos were even labeled. Scrapbooking seems like a think of my generation, not theirs. I wonder if my grandma had any idea how precious these photos would be to our family after she was gone from here. She did a wonderful job keeping and preserving family memories.
I wish I knew all the people in the photos. I wish I knew all the stories behind the photos. I wish I could sit with grandma, just for a day, and ask her about each one. Knowing I can’t is part of my problem–the one that keeps me awake at night. My children won’t sit with me now to learn what I know. So, I will do all I can to keep and preserve what I know for them someday, when they’ll wonder about who we are.
These are the scanners at BYU where I’ve scanned thousands of photos and documents.My next job will be to caption all of these family photos and organize them so I can share them with others in the family. It’s fun work, but time consuming. Here is just a glimpse:I am slowly adding photos and stories and documents (called “Memories”) like these to FamilySearch online where anyone can view them. This week I added my 4000th “Memory.” More than 800 of these Memories are stories about people I’m related to. Each story, photo or document is tagged to the individuals associated with it. My work right now is transferring my “library” to a safe place where it will live on after I go.
I hope when I’m an old lady, stooped and slow, my work here will be finished, and I hope that someday, my posterity will know how hard we tried to get it right and leave a good name for them. And then I hope I can get some sleep!