I came across this poem, written around 1943 by Della M. Cumming and share it today for those who, like me, understand the depths of feeling possible for family members long gone who we feel a connection to, who we understand; those we have never met, yet love so deeply.
We Are The Chosen
“My feelings are in each family we are called to find the ancestors.
To put flesh on their bones and make them live again,
To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.
To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead,
Breathing life into all who have gone before.
We are the storytellers of the tribe.
We have been called as it were by our genes.
Those who have gone before cry out to us:
Tell our story.
So, we do.
In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.
How many graves have I stood before now and cried?
I have lost count.
How many times have I told the ancestors
you have a wonderful family, you would be proud of us?
How many times have I walked up to a grave
and felt somehow there was love there for me?
I cannot say.
It goes beyond just documenting facts.
It goes to who I am and why I do the things I do.
It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever
to weeds and indifference and saying I can’t let this happen.
The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
It goes to doing something about it.
It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish.
How they contributed to what we are today.
It goes to respecting their hardships and losses,
To their never giving in or giving up.
Their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.
It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation.
It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us
That we might be born who we are.
That we might remember them.
So we do.
With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence,
Because we are them and they are us.
So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family.
It is up to that one called in the next generation,
To answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers.
That is why I do my family genealogy,
And that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.”
~~ Della M. Cumming