Added Family, The Gifts You Gain By Sharing Your Family History

Francis Victor Winchurch c.1939You may not know it, but my husband, John does a bit of writing too. He tends to focus most of his efforts on his genealogy pages having picked up the research bug that bit his father years ago. One could easily say that his dad’s initial interest actually started when faced with a question from John that he couldn’t answer about a relative listed in the family bible.

Today marks what would have been his father’s one hundredth birthday and John has written a lovely piece about his dad who was born in the same year the first world war began. If you are interested in seeing more images and learning a bit more about his life, you can find it by clicking on the name,

Vic Winchurch.

I love the way internet links are able to act as a kind of map helping those with common ancestors find each other and connect to family lines that might otherwise be lost to history.

John’s genealogy pages have brought him into contact with other relatives who having searched for family name found their way to his site. Especially poignant to me was an email not so long ago when a cousin in Canada contacted him after seeing her grandfather, George Arthur Gadesby Smith’s face in a photo for the first time after her search led her John’s website. Her grandfather was brother to John’s maternal grandmother and after George Smith died during WWI leaving a wife and two children,  his widow remarried and immigrated to Canada causing that link to be lost until a few years ago.

Having met John later in life, I never had an opportunity to meet his dad, but I’ve heard enough stories to be able to see where some of John’s gentle nature and compassion likely come from.

If you have an interest, the blue links will take you to John’s website and the sweet birthday piece he wrote to honor his dad.

John and Vic Winchurch

A Lot Can Happen In Five Years

Wedding Day - John Winchurch & Elizabeth HarperThis photograph was taken a few minutes before John and I married five years ago today and despite all that is happening in the background, it remains one of my favorites.

I use to moan about the car, and the way our family and friends are all doing their own thing in the background, particularly the two people right behind us. I even tried to edit the couple out with Photoshop, but it never looked right.

John hates feeling like he’s the center of attention so when he asked that we forgo a professional photographer, I agreed thinking if we had one decent photo of the day that would be enough for me.

I figured if a handful of folks were equipped with a camera we would surely have a few we would like from the collected effort. I wrote about the outcome of that decision in a post titled, Everyone’s a Wedding Photographer and there are loads of images there if you’d like to see more of our day.

Because I know how much a professional photographer can add to your wedding day memories, the photographer in me has been a bit wistful occasionally when looking back at the images we have especially the one above, but five years on I can see it from a different perspective and I don’t mind the activity in the background so much.

A lot can happen in five years and some of the people in the photo are no longer in our lives.

The couple that I tried to edit our photo who on that day seemed destined for a little wedding day happiness of their own, they got engaged a few years later, but decided to go separate ways a few months before their wedding.

The woman in purple with the white hair was our friend MIJ.  She died a year after this picture was taken from a reoccurrence of breast cancer after having been in remission for 20 years. She had no idea she was even ill until a few months before she died. I wrote about her several times in The Last Walk – Measured Steps, and Memories and Music in a Full House.

I’ve written a great many posts about John’s granddaughter always masking her identity with the name, Jersey Girl.  She’s the little four – year old girl you can see in the arms of John’s eldest daughter. JG has a little sister now who will be three not long before JG turns ten. Some of my favorite posts have involved fun times with Jersey Girl so click here to see a list of some you might enjoy.

I told John today that nothing has ever seemed as easy as the decision I made to marry him and while not all of the 620 posts at GOTJ are about us, there are more than a few that show why it was the right one.

My Magpie Fall Into Winter

Mushrooms

See what happens when you leave things untended for too long, you come back to find mushrooms sprouting everywhere. Seriously, my spam folder is full of little gems and none so nice as these lovelies found growing in our back garden.

I did not mean to abandon GOTJ, but my everyday life wrapped its arms around me and slowly seduced me away so that every time I thought I might stop by and leave a word or two, something else caught my eye. Like the easily distracted Magpie, I have filled up the days and minutes of the last few months with whatever shiny distraction looked more appealing in the moment.

It would be great to say that the distracting moments have all been golden, but dark shadows have passed over our sweet village with one terrible secret coming too close to where we call home. The fallout is ongoing and has felt overwhelming at times, stirring up old ghosts for me as the details have been revealed. I know I am being vague and I promise it is not with intent to tease, but rather a desire to wait until things have worked their way through the legal system.

Things are ‘all go’ here as John and I make our home ready for a quiet Christmas and I promise to be back with some more seasonal photos over the next few days beginning with images from a lovely candlelight Christmas carol service I attended in a tiny village church nearby.

Hand to heart, I shall endeavor to do better by my blog and my readers in the new year and if any of you are still out there, I would love a little roll call or a cheery hello.

Breathing Lessons & Birthday Tales

Twenty six years ago there were no reality television shows and certainly none dealing with childbirth.

I know that may be difficult for some younger readers to imagine, but it is true.

No one howled their way through their birth experience with a room full of cameras committing it to permanent memory and the filmed versions of  labor and delivery I watched while pregnant looked nothing like my experience.

In the tidied up childbirth videos I saw prior to my labor, women breathed their way through the pain seemingly without fear or loss of control. Babies were delivered straight into the mother’s waiting arms before the umbilical cord was even cut and happy tears were always present as the mother cuddled her child for the first time.

Those were the stories I saw and I expected my own would mirror what I viewed in class.

I chose a physician who had used midwives ten years longer than any other medical group in town and did everything I could to prepare for the big day, but despite all of my reading and preparations, nothing really went as I’d planned.

Let’s gloss over a due date that came and went, waiting until ten days had passed. I was prepared for that as first babies are often late.  And let’s just skip past the 52 hour labor that everyone says you forget, but my daughter would groan that I never have.

Let’s talk instead about fear.

Let’s talk about what happens to the happy tears you expected when your first glimpse of your baby is from across the room surrounded by medical staff instead of looking down at her in your arms.

Or when they say things like ” She looks pretty good, but her Apgar score is not a high as we’d like.”

Of course fear is not an emotion that disappears when you learn the issues have resolved and your baby is fine … every parent knows that getting them here safely is just the first step.

Parenting is a bit like a complicated recipe where adjustments have to be made all the time to keep the cake from falling before it’s finished or the soup from being too salty.

Add too much of this or too little of that and it can be easy to make a total mess of it.

There have been loads of resources to help guide me along the way, but without knowing it the most useful may have been some of the breathing lessons I first learned in childbirth classes.

I have shared my daughter’s birth story many times over the last twenty-six years and I have always talked about how those deep breathing lessons let me down.

It’s funny that only now can I see how they important they have actually been.

Learning to pause and breathe in and out deeply has been a huge part of my journey and those happy tears that were so elusive on the first day … somewhere along the way I discovered that one must let go of fear to make room for joy.

After being out of the country for her last few birthdays, I am ” over the moon ” excited to be in Atlanta to share some of this special day with my daughter.

Happy Birthday, Miranda.

photo

There are links to Miranda stories on this date for each year that I have been blogging. This one from last year has links to the earlier years. The one titled, 8:03 can be found here and it is probably my favorite.

 These photos were taken by Miranda’s father.

I Don’t Want A Big Birthday Party!

photo

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? 

~ Satchel Paige

Even though she was born in America during The Great Depression, my stepmom Cullene seems almost ageless. She’s been that way to me for years and so much so that once she moved into her sixties, I never could remember exactly how old she was.  After asking her more times than I should, I finally just started doing the math myself and even now I still have trouble reconciling her actual age with her active life.

As you may have guessed, today is her birthday.

She doesn’t want a fuss and has countered each suggestion for something more noteworthy with the dexterity of an athlete and firmness of someone who will not be swayed from what she wants. We finally settled on a small family celebration with just a few of us gathered round to eat, sing, and celebrate what is certainly a special day for us even if she would rather not make a big deal of it.

My sister Jennie and I have not been very closed-mouthed about which birthday this is (think big one) and Cullene would likely be horrified to know how many strangers now know about her birthday.  I think we are just so impressed with the way she seems virtually unchanged by the passing years that we cannot help but brag on her.

She has been my guide in so many ways since she married my dad in 1972 and watching her carry on as she does makes me rethink what life can be like as I move through my fifties and plan for the future.

I have been in the Atlanta area for about the last month and I arranged the dates of my visit in part so I could be here to celebrate her birthday. Most of us would think of this one as a more significant birthday, the kind where a big party is almost expected, but respecting Cullene’s wishes, we will keep the gathering small.

I have written about the profound impact of her influence on my life in several earlier posts and you can read some of them here and here or even more if you put her name in the search column on the right.

Cullene has agreed to let me take a few photos, but she has never been a fan of having her picture made and from the look on her face in the photo above I think her lack of enthusiasm for the camera began at an early age.

Happy Birthday, Cullene!

Remembering Major Bradley Gene Cuthbert

Captain Bradley Gene Cuthbert (Photo by Elizabeth Harper)

It can be frustrating when you spend several hours searching for someone online and can’t find them. We’re all so used to easy access to information, but what if you spent your whole life searching and wondering.

Major Bradley Gene Cuthbert went missing on November 23 1968 during a flight over North Vietnam. It was his 28th birthday.

When agreements were reached and the POWs came home, Major Cuthbert was not with the survivors. According to information I found online, it seems he was declared dead based on two teeth, a dog-tag, and differing tales from witnesses some as old as 21 years after his plane was shot down.

Two teeth were repatriated and his military file was closed.

His daughter, Shannon Cuthbert Sassen believes he may still be alive somewhere.

I’d like to think we wouldn’t leave a solider behind and that all efforts to find him were exhausted, but 45 years is a long time and it seems unlikely that her father will be returned to her now.

After reading his story and her comment with it, I tried to find her online to give her a copy of the image above. I took the photo of the POW bracelet with her father’s name on it during a trip to Washington D.C. when John and I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The long dark wall is a powerful memorial to loss and suffering and like many memorials, people sometimes leave mementos behind. Placed along the wall are personal touchstones left by people connected to someone whose name is etched on the reflective wall of war dead.

A lasting memory from my childhood, the POW bracelet caught my eye placed as it was in front of the wall next to an American flag.

I tried to find Major Cuthbert’s daughter through a variety of search routes before giving up. I hope this post finds its way to her so she will know that her father is not forgotten and that I too, will be thinking of him today.

I’ve written more than a few words about Memorial Day over the last few years and you may be interested in those stories as well.

Leaving Cornwall – Moving On

Cornwall 2013

” How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if we would only listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown. ” ~ Elizabeth Kubler -Ross

A local friend of mine told me the other day that he’ll be moving at the end of the month. He is leaving Cornwall to be closer to the family he has left. Having been born in Cornwall, he is what you don’t often meet here, a true Cornishman. His words are of those of acceptance, but they are tinged with a sadness that I can almost feel.

We have talked at length about Lanhydrock, a place very familiar to him and his lively stories have made a place already special to me, even more memorable.

Last week John and I walked into Lanhydrock from a new direction. We parked at Respryn Bridge and wandered down a long tree-lined road that once welcomed carts and carriages and the first automobiles. I thought of my friend as we enjoyed the fresh beauty of our long-awaited spring weather. The sun came and went as we walked with dark clouds shadowing us at points along the way before retreating without even a drop of the rain I thought might come.

After hearing me talk about distance running not long after we met, my Cornish friend shared a bit about his running days … telling me of a time when his feet knew the way to all the best paths around Lanhydrock. It will be impossible not to think of him on days like the one we had even though his season of running has passed and his time in Cornwall is at an end.

I imagine I will see him there from time to time in my mind when the weather shifts as it did with us. I’ll think what a fine day and suddenly he will be there, on the path in his running shoes with no need for walking sticks … moving easily in a place between the past and the future.

Safe travels, my friend.

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013