Everyone, of any culture, loves an old photo of their ancestors. Young or old, black or white, we all love them. We can stare at them trying to discern every last detail, and share them with anyone who will look at them too. We imagine their life and judge their success by the clothes they are wearing. We may even have stories that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Family historians display these finds, adding birth dates and death dates, and tales of who they were and what they did in their lifetimes.
They also love to photograph and share the finds of where that treasured ancestor is buried. That final monument, large or small, flat or tall, that captures an ancestors’ life in stone. Two dates with a dash in between, in a cemetery. Cemeteries are filled with the monuments of our ancestors. A sacred plot where we are all equal. Our descendants will work with whatever funds available to elevate us with works of art in granite or marble. This is where our family comes to pay their respects and share the stories. Sometimes, sadly cemeteries become forgotten and their stories are lost. It is said that as long as a name is said that person is not forgotten.
Monuments in our cities and parks are the same. While not marking the gravesite, they are a memorial to that person, their life and their deeds. They are proudly dedicated with words that share the story. Like that old photograph, they capture the life and the history. Sometimes the story gets forgotten, lost to the ravages of time. Because time marches on, and people change. What made that life special though does not change, but the times in which we live do. Many of us love to take that old photograph, or look at that monument, and recall how the world has changed since that moment. Winston Churchill said, “the further one can look back, then the further we can see forward.” If we destroy those opportunities to look back, I wonder how we can we ever know how much we have moved forward. Someday, we will want our grandchildren to look back on us with respect for our deeds. Let us teach them today, with good examples, of how to listen to the stories of the past with respect and not judgement. Someday we will all be stories of the past, that old photograph or that monument, that should never be forgotten.