Monday, December 23, 2019

Smiles amid the tears

 I've written a lot on this blog about my second-great-grandmother, Philena Beilstein. Her life is just a riveting, heartbreaking story of gain, loss, heartache, separation, and other difficulties. But in posting some family photos to FamilySearch tonight, I found, or rather noticed anew, these photos of Lena. What stood out to me is that she is smiling in all of them. Because her life involved so much tragedy, I guess I've gotten used to seeing that side of her life most. But these photos remind me that, even in a life that had its share (or maybe more than its share) of difficulties, there had to have been good times too. These photos are evidence that there were times of sunshine in her life, and that is something definitely worth remembering.

Lena and her daughters Edna, Elsie, Grace, and Hazel.
Lena and Ernest Craddock, her third husband and father of her children.
Lena (left) and Kay, probably a friend.
These photos remind me that even our best efforts as genealogists will not really be able to fully encapsulate or recreate the life stories of our ancestors. All we can do is the best we can with the scraps and snippets we find. In Lena's case, I'm glad I saw these photos again. After all I've learned of her life, and knowing all she went through, seeing that she could still smile at times gives me hope that, even in my times of struggle and trial, there will be moments of calm and peace and even joy.

My family at a ward Christmas party, 16 December 2016.

That's especially important to me today. December 23, 2019, marks three years to the day that my son, Levi Richard Gibson, passed away. His passing was far and away the most painful, the most difficult experience of my life so far. There were moments where the grief just felt overwhelming, like a wave that just swallows you whole and it feels like there's no coming up for air. Fortunately, with time and the three F's - faith, family, and friends - my heart began to heal. The grief waves still came (and still do) but they aren't overwhelming now. They are tempered by the knowledge that I will see my son again, and by the outpouring of love my family and I received, and still receive.

As with other important days like Easter and Levi's birthday, we'll be visiting his grave later today, clearing away the grass and making it look clean and beautiful. I don't get many opportunities to serve Levi, but this is one way I can do something for my little boy. In addition to that visit, we'll be doing some other acts of service as a way to honor his memory, and spread some love, like he did when he was here.

Things may not have gone like I had planned, but that's ok. Just like with my great-great-grandma Lena, sadness and hard times don't define my life. There are still times of laughter, and joy, and sunshine and smiles. One day, because of Jesus Christ, all the tears of sorrow and sadness will be turned to tears of joy and reunion. And that is something worth waiting and working for.

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