A Year Later
The one-year anniversary of my father’s death is today, April 27, 2021.
When he passed away the nation was experiencing what was thought to be the worst of the pandemic and it just wasn’t safe to travel or gather in large numbers. My family here in South Carolina watched the Texas graveside service via Facebook Live, each doing so separately. (Jenni and I watched from the chapel at our church.) We could see the few family members who had gathered in person but couldn’t communicate with them.
At the time we thought there would soon be an opportunity to safely gather and celebrate his life but as time went on that seemed less likely. Our little South Carolina family was finally able to take that step last week.
If you’re not a graduate of Texas A&M University, or married to one, you may not know about Muster. But each year, on April 21, Aggies worldwide gather to honor fellow Aggies who have passed away in the last year. This day is also San Jacinto Day, or Texas Independence Day, which commemorates the victory over Mexico and subsequent independence as a republic of its own. The Aggie tradition of mustering the students and presenting a roll call began in the late 1880’s. Today, a “Roll Call for the Absent” is read and friends or family answer “Here” signifying that the deceased is never forgotten.
Our little pod of six gathered last week along with the Upstate Aggie Club. I was able to share stories my father had told of his experiences at Aggieland. We were able to join our voices with others in traditional songs and swap college life stories. But most importantly, when the Roll Call was presented, and my Dad’s name was read, the six of us were able to look at each other and answer “Here” in unison. For each of us, it was a feeling of completion; this was a final moment we had been waiting for and needed. His spirit lives on in those who knew him.
If 2020 did anything good for me, it gave me time to reflect and that has carried over into 2021. I find myself thinking more about my mom and dad now that they are both gone. I try to recall stories they told or things they would say. It hurts when I know I’m missing some details of a story that I’ll never be able to get back. Quite often I’ve thought that I should have listened harder.
I do have some priceless treasures such as a video interview I conducted of both of them on the homeplaces where each grew up. (It has now gone from VHS tape, to CD, to digital so hopefully it is preserved.) And I’ve got some rough cell phone video of my father talking about World War II. I do treasure these moments but they are also a reminder of many other memories lost forever.
A nephew reached out to me this week for some family history. He said he considered me the family historian. I took that as a great honor but also saw the responsibility in it. Just last week my brother and I had shared some stories with each other of some pretty violent relatives in our lineage who were quick to call for a gunfight or shove someone off a cliff. I told him someone needed to preserve these stories and tell them to our children and grandchildren. He replied “or maybe not”!
My mother-in-law had a saying: “Don’t poke around too much in the family wood pile. You might not like what you find.”