Thursday, September 13, 2018

I hope she knows she's strong

My cousin's daughter's husband passed away suddenly Sunday evening. I don't know the whole story. In fact, the details I do know leave more questions than answers (what was he doing on the train tracks in the middle of nowhere at 9:45 in the evening?). I'm not particularly close with this cousin or her daughter, but still this strange event is hitting a little close to home.

They had only been married a little over a year. They have a beautiful little boy.

And now Chauncé is a widow and a single mother. She's young. Rosie's age.

This is one of my worst nightmares—having my husband die and leaving me with a bunch of young children to raise—and it's now Chauncé's reality. I don't know what to do or say to help (other than contributing to funeral expenses, which you can do at any Mountain America Credit Union under the account “Nick Torres Memorial Fund” or you can Venmo a donation to @Nicks_Memorial_Fund).

I hope, more than anything, that she knows she's strong, that she comes from good stock.

We had a lesson on family history work in Relief Society this past Sunday and as luck would have it I've also been feverishly working to finish up a little family history book for my children to flip through so the stories of our ancestors have been fresh on my mind. The point was brought up (she said, using passive voice, even though she herself made the comment (but then someone else brought it up again later so it wasn't just me, okay?)) that knowing one's family history increases resilience.

As I've been looking through the histories of our ancestors I've noticed that they've all gone through some pretty gut-wrenching tragedies.

My great-grandmother, May Hancock, passed away in the morning of July 2, 1944. My grandmother had gone on her very first date the evening before and when she came home she was "too tired" to tell her mom about it, and so she missed the chance.

My grandma told me once to always take time to tell your family that you love them because you never know when it will be your last time. She spent her teenage years helping her father take care of her younger sister, Ila June, who we're pretty positive had down's syndrome.

Oh, and Ed and May had earlier been brave enough to uproot themselves from the family farm down in Utah to settle in the Alberta prairie. I think that's pretty brave.

My great-grandfather, Charlie Wilson Duggar, was out driving one day, drunk as always (the ol' scallawag). He crashed into a tree and passed away soon thereafter. Fortunately, it was a single-car accident and he was, as far as I know, the only occupant of the vehicle. Still, he left behind my great-grandmother Gladys to raise four young children on her own.

She eventually married one Mr. Henderson, who became a step-father to my grandmother, who disliked him with such intensity that she never spoke of him to her children. The marriage didn't last, so none of her children ever met him, but my dad didn't even know that his mother had had a step-father until her funeral!

Gladys and Mr. Henderson left their family roots in the deep south of Florida (and Georgia) to settle in Utah, which was also a pretty brave move.

My great-grandmother, Erma Catharine Nunn Layton, was out running errands with her little brood one day when they were struck by a drunk driver. My grandpa's first memories are being thrown around violently in the vehicle and then the fact that his mother never came home (she passed away from brain injuries). It was so traumatic that that is the only thing he was ever able to recall about her. He was five years old.

My ancestors were no strangers at picking up the pieces and rebuilding a happy home.

On Andrew's side, his great-grandfather, Lawrence Albert Anderson, was kicked by a horse, contracted pneumonia, and passed away, leaving his wife Esther (who was eight months pregnant with Andrew's grandfather, George) to care for seven children (and then eight children, once the baby came). She, too, eventually remarried to a man who made everyone miserable.

His great-grandparents, Frank and Gertrude, immigrated from Germany to the United States, leaving behind their families, which was also very bold.

His great-great-grandmother, Miriam (or Minnie, as she went by (born 3 June (Benjamin's birthday!), 1880 in Vilna, Lithuania)) had to, according to Grandma Pat, "be smuggled out of the country because a Cossack soldier tried to rape her and she either killed him, or injured him. She came to America when she was 18."

That was very, very bold!

So many tales of hardship and I even haven't gotten around to mentioning any Mormon Pioneer Stories!

But, you know, the Hancocks opened a very successful dairy (one of the very first dairies in Alberta (and the first one to use glass bottles, according to newspaper accounts)). They had twelve children together (I didn't talk about any children dying in this little collection of stories, but the Hancocks really did well in this area, raising eleven of their twelve children to adulthood) so were able to enjoy each other's company for quite some time.

My grandma turned into a beautiful young woman, married well, and became a wonderful mother. I'm sure she missed her mother dearly with every passing year, but she never seemed to dwell on that and always made Canada Day a very special day (when it was probably a difficult day for her to remember).

Gladys also lived out a happy life, once Mr. Henderson was out of the picture (he died rather young as well). My grandmother married her high school sweetheart while they were both rather young (they eloped in quite a sneaky manner). Together they built up a drywall company (my grandfather had been taught the trade by his father, who remarried a cute, little widow with a handful of children and they did their best to create a happily blended family).

Esther, I'm sure, found happiness as well (though I'm not sure how her story ends) and her son George grew up to be a fine father of nine. He knew the value of hard work. He was a school teacher by day and handyman by night (and/or summer break). Karen has memories of accompanying him sometimes when he'd go off to help build houses in the summer. He kept bees and sold honey and...turned out just fine.

I'm honestly not so sure what Opa ended up doing in San Francisco, but I do know that he did well for himself. He and Oma only had one son (our Grandpa Frank), and pictures show them absolutely doting on him.

Minnie had a hard life, but raised her children on her own and seems to have found happiness.

I guess my point is that in spite of the adversities life deals out to us, we can make something good for ourselves. Things will turn out alright even if they're unspeakably difficult now. I hope I don't seem to be belittling Chauncé's grief (she's certainly allowed the sorrow I'm sure she's experiencing) because that's not my intention at all. I just hope she knows that she's strong. I hope she knows that she can get through this, she has the power to put the pieces back together, she can become a family history hero for her future generations.

(And that goes for you, too, my own little future generations).