(Before you read any of my posts, consider that you and I may experience death differently. I see it as a continuation of life where my loved ones grow, learn and share with me who they were in this life and what they’ve learned and are learning. I never mean any disrespect with my sense of humor about or exposure of what I consider to be the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences that every human being has had or will have while roaming this place called Earth. In fact, I know that my ancestors are tickled to be remembered, and never feel disrespected, but are very pleased to have had someone see their lives as worthwhile to those still living. Enjoy!)
I know he’s dead.
My mom remembered the other day how and where.
“My dad and he were on a fishing trip and he died. He was about 59. And as I recall (not her words exactly), fishing was like everything else…not much fun.”
Edward De Zeng Kelley was born in Connecticut in 1874 to Thomas and Estelle. By the time he was 32 he had a wife and two children, a boy and a girl. Actually, I learned from a census record that there had been three, but the first had died before my grandfather was born. How did that affect him?
I haven’t written a story of my ancestors in a while. Maybe a couple of weeks. I haven’t checked. Edward, my maternal great grandfather has been on my mind. I’ve felt a lot of judgement about him. I have been feeling melancholy since Sunday morning and have also been wrestling with thoughts about him, being patient, waiting for his story to unfold. This morning, as I searched again for a record of his death- an obituary, death certificate, newspaper article-anything to prove where and when he’d died, I felt his frustration with me.
He’s dead. That’s not his story.
He died while fishing with his son. I thought that was his story, or the story I’d tell.
“Just tell it, Betsy!”
How do you come to terms with the feelings of regret even they are someone else’s? How do you tell the truth about someone when it doesn’t sound so nice?
I honestly felt (feel) him pleading with me to lay it out there even though it sounds like a judgement. Why? Because there’s a lesson? Because he needs freedom? Or is it all about me?
Help me as I let it unfold while I telling you what I know.
Edward is a very hard nut to crack. He seems to have been an only child. The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire in 1921, so I can’t tell if there were more children born to Thomas and Estelle Kelley. Estelle died in 1899 before the 1900 census where I would have searched for the two columns, “number of children”, and “number of living children” and learned more about Edward as a teenager.
So, I’m left with a few records and one story- the recollection my mother had of him dying while on a fishing trip, something he did often (fishing not dying) with his son.
I’ve tried to focus on what type of person it takes to be a stock broker on Wall Street, and what it would mean to lose a child and all of your material wealth a few times during your lifetime, managing to rebuild it from scratch. That’s part of who he was. I don’t know what drove him. But I feel like he was very driven to succeed materially above everything else. I’m okay being wrong about that. Those are just feelings I get when I look at his picture, review his life, and sit and ponder.
But I keep going back to the fishing trip. His time was up and he didn’t know it. His life had been lived. And the spirit of his life was passed down in that story.
Right now the feeling I get is that the truth of who he really was isn’t what really matters. What matters is what we leave- the essence of who we have been to the people whose paths we’ve crossed while we were living. Edward may have left contradictory stories and memories with family and friends. But the one that I feel like he regrets the most is the impression he left of being stressed out, type A, difficult, and somewhat stern. Not pleasant.
Is that the truth? I think it is in part.
Does it really matter what made him that way? Sure. But understanding him doesn’t give him back moments of time where he had choices to leave a legacy of joy, contentment and happiness.
I know that Edward has moved past those regrets-the ones where the relationship with his son and wife may have been strained.
But, I’m alive right now, wondering why he won’t leave me alone.
Maybe it’s the kind of day where you trust that the stuff that you think matters and is weighing you down because it has to get done, isn’t the stuff that matters at all. Maybe it’s the kind of day where you know we’re all doing the best we can and love shines through regardless of how imperfectly we think we’re interacting with those who matter most to us.
Today might be the day to forgive those we love as well as ourselves for not measuring up to impossible expectations.
Perhaps it’s the perfect day to take the walk that my 6-yr-old Kenny asks me to take all of the time- the one “to nowhere, for no reason.” And while walking I’ll tell Edward thank you for doing the best he could and for inspiring me to look at my emotions and how they influence those I love for good and bad. Just a thought.
The sun’s out.
Thank you Edward. I got it.
What about you? Do you live in such a way that the legacy you leave is the one you deliberately choose? Will it be one of a positive influence? How do you make that shift?