My grandparents had a wall of family photos, photos that survived many moves during my grandfather’s 21 years in the Army, photos that captivated me as a child. One particular photo was my favorite: a man and a woman in a sunny field with rolling hills behind them. He is seated and she is standing beside him with her arm resting on his shoulder, and even seated he’s nearly as tall as she is standing. When I asked my grandfather about the photo, he told me that they were his grandparents—Grandma and Grandpa Boone who lived down in Braxton County, West Virginia. Thomas Edgar Boone (1865-1937) (my Great Great Grandfather) was a coal miner and 6’6″. Grandpa (who was 6’4″) laughed and said that his grandpa was so tall he had to mine on his knees. It’s hard to even imagine how awful spending your life mining coal on your knees must have been. Philosa (Flossie) Carpenter Boone (1868-1940) stood beside him and gave birth to 10 children, one of them being my Great Grandmother Grace (Boone) Doutrich. And I can’t really tell you why I loved the picture of Great Great Grandma and Grandpa Boone so much as a child, I just did!
Last week a letter arrived at the parsonage from my Aunt Michelle out in Colorado, our family’s passionate and skilled genealogist. I opened the card and out fell a picture—the 3.5 x 5 original black and white picture of Great Great Grandma and Grandpa Boone that was later blown up and hung in my grandparent’s house. On the back is my grandma’s handwriting and my aunt Michelle’s to identify these family members for all of us. Like many people right now, my aunt Michelle is working from home and has been sorting through family photos. She remembered that this is my favorite and kindly sent me the picture to keep, my Great Great Grandparents in that sunny field in West Virginia.
Here’s what gave me pause, and why I share this with you. It dawned on me to check the dates of their lives. With a start, I realized that Thomas and Flossie were alive (and obviously survived) the flu pandemic of 1918. How interesting that this family photo came to me during this time when in our own present circumstances we are facing a pandemic. I’m not quite sure what to think of this yet. Mostly Great Great Grandma and Grandpa Boone give me strength somehow to know that people have faced and will face a great deal of adversity in our lives. Surviving spending your life mining coal on your knees and birthing 10 children down in West Virginia feels a whole lot more difficult than their Great Great Granddaughter serving as the Pastor of a church in Connecticut, even in the midst of another pandemic! It makes me realize that every generation of a family has our own adversities to face, our own stories to tell. In years to come, we may tell people about the events of 2020 and my prayer is that the stories we tell will be about the ways we came together, the ways we helped each other, the ways we realized that maybe we took some things for granted before this pandemic. And once we came back together physically, you won’t even believe the celebrations we had! Just a thought, for this week.
(This Week’s Thoughts 4.9.20)