catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 12 :: 2011.06.24 — 2011.07.07



Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.  You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.  How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!  People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:5

As I get older, I understand more and more my grandparents’ desire to sit us down in the years before their deaths and deliberately tell us the stories from their childhood, their family history.  There is an urge in me to leave my story for my children and for theirs after that and I am only 36 years old. 

My parents are getting older and I encourage them, as I encouraged my grandmother, to write things down, to record them, to not rely simply on verbal retelling.  In Western culture, we don’t have a strong oral historical record or the habit of committing to memory for accurate storytelling and retelling.  I am incredibly conscious that my memory, even of my own childhood, is colored and distorted depending on what marked me most.  We cannot rely simply on our memory.

I was a bit of a dunce when it came to history in school.  I could never remember dates or the order of events, but when I look at my own snippets of family history that I can remember, I adore the richness, the fullness of where I have come from, of who has gone before me, of the variety of life that has preceded me and of how historical events and changes in culture peep through those stories.

My parents have been creating a family tree for a few years now.  They were passionate about it when they started, but life, operations, grandchildren and other priorities have taken over more recently.  I hope they haven’t abandoned it, that somewhere in the background of their lives, they are still writing things down, still recording history.  One day I hope to see it, to see those stories altogether, the good and the bad, stories of humanity, stories of God’s faithfulness and protection.  What I already know hints at the rich detail.

Lyley, my great grandmother of the Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup family, lived with her husband in a stately home of which they were custodians.  Nobody knew they were arguing until, due to ill health, they had to move out of the large house and into a small cottage in the grounds.  The family only realized that they fought tooth and nail when one of them was hospitalized.

Scottish Great Granny Gold labeled everything in her house with whom it was to go to when she died.  When visitors admired a vase, they would pick it up to inspect it and see a sticky label on the bottom with someone’s name on it.

One ancestor was tapissier (house mover) for Queen Victoria.

Great Grandpa Harry was part of the first super-secret Tank Regiment in the First World War.  He and his brother died together in their mid-twenties.

Granny Joyce brought up her children as a single divorced mom in the 50s, moving from house to house as a housekeeper.  After her best friend died tragically, she married Grandpa Nigel, her best friend’s husband, and together they ran a pig and dairy farm where Charles de Gaulle had stayed when he was in exile during the Second World War.

Grandpa Ivor managed a team of electricians, going out in the snow in winter on top of the Welsh mountains, repairing electricity lines.  Granny Eve loved to write and had her work published in a magazine when she won a writing competition.  One aunt shocked her family by marrying and emigrating to South Africa. 

Mum and Dad lived in Pakistan as missionaries for 21 years.  Dad had faith that God would provide a transit van with green wheels which actually eventuated in an English country bus with green wheels (and he had faith that God would provide tax exemption for it, too).  Mum had faith that God would give them a house of their own and then the house they were renting came up for sale just three weeks later, a house which they then were able to buy.  God’s faithfulness brought them safely through a car crash, two heart operations, two brain operations, an angiogram, a cancerous melanoma, two major country moves and release them from debt.

Each generation wants to do things its own way. Culture can change dramatically over one person’s lifetime, and things that belonged to the realm of sci-fi when I was a child are now every day realities for us. But some things never change.  God’s love and his faithfulness last to a thousand generations. Our human hearts struggle with the same old things.  Each of us still wants to make a mark on history and change the world and none of us wants to die without our stories being told, without the next generation knowing that we lived and that our lives mattered.

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