Gettysburg: Haunting Me Still

Gettysburg: Haunting Me Still

While many of you will be celebrating the 4th of July tomorrow, tonight, at my house, there will be a small gathering of people to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Ok, so that’s pretty different, perhaps you think it’s odd; I have two things to say to that: Anniversaries are sacred, AND you don’t know my mother.

me, haunting Gettysburg like a pro

me, haunting Gettysburg like a pro

I grew up in a house with a mortician and a history teacher – a very interesting combo that I think explains the picture here to the right. Together, but in their own unique ways, my parents taught me the power of an anniversary, of a symbol, and of a life. But what they were really teaching me, perhaps without realizing, was how to remember.

My mom took me on several trips to the east coast to visit the Civil War battlefields of Harper’s Ferry, Antietam/Sharpsburg, Manassas/Bull Run, Fredericksburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Guiné Station, and her particular favorite, Gettysburg. On our last trip I was old enough to drive and I dropped my mom off at the field where General George Pickett led his famous charge so that she could walk it herself. I went and got coffee and found a little bookstore because, well, my version of vacation is a bit different than hers : ) While I didn’t fully understand it then, looking back on those trips, I really appreciate my time in Gettysburg and I love the enthusiasm and passion the place stirred up in my mom. I remember vividly driving to the top of Little Round Top (a small hill on the battlefield & a significantly strategic spot) to watch the sunset over the battlefield and seeing my mom tear-up as she thought of the 51,000 men were killed, wounded, captured, or never found over the course of just 3 days. It’s a sobering place.

Photo by Sonny Fulks

Photo by Sonny Fulks

There are 1,328 memorials and monuments scattered around the battleground. You actually can’t look anywhere in Gettysburg without seeing a memorial to fallen soldiers, a courageous general, an infantry unit, or a particular place where the fighting was hottest.

 

There is a real sense of “hallowed ground” in every inch of that small, quaint town.

The point of all of this that I hope will stay with you as we celebrate the 4th of July tomorrow, is that there is wisdom and goodness in stopping to remember some of the events in history that have made the 4th a day we celebrate.

Anniversaries like today and tomorrow are opportunities for us to honor heroes, learn some history, and spend some time appreciating the value and impact of a single human life.

So tonight, we will gather around our bonfire, smoking pipes and cigars, chewing homemade hardtack and johnny cakes. And in this small, but purposeful gathering, we will pay our respects to the men and the battle of Gettysburg.

 So . . .

What are some significant anniversaries in your life? How do you celebrate them?

 

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I'm Molly and I write for the blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.
This entry was posted in Perspective and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Patricia Kolstad

    Incredibly inspiring words, my sweet Molly. I know you and I certainly know your mom. And while I would gasp at the thought of receiving a replica of the saber that was used in those battles as a Christmas gift, mind you, I understood her passion and her gift as a History teacher. I also realized how important is was for your parents to “pass on” those teachable moments to you and Andy. And just look at what you’ve done with those gifts!

    I believe that Birthday’s, Anniversaries, Graduations and Births are all incredibly important milestones in all of our lives. My family celebrates all of these with abandon! It’s a time to gather, celebrate and encourage. It’s a time to “mark” that day and place all of our love, support and focus on that one very special person. We love doing this as a family..

    We even more important, we want to remember those who have gone before. I know exactly how old my dad would be if he were still alive. This year he turned 99 and next year he would have been 100. It’s incredible to think about. I still share stories of him, his life, his struggles, and his sweetness, kindness and his ability to “talk things out”. When we honor our loved ones, and even those we did not know, we are “marking the day”. Remembering them and taking them with us. Because if we don’t, their lives, the meaning of who they were, will be left behind. We need to “take them with us”, and share those memories for the ages. We need to remember!

    • Yes! I love that idea of “taking them with us” – that’s exactly the point of remembering, commemorating and honoring – to keep their memory and meaning alive.

      And like you said, this goes for all events, happy and sad, that are significant to us. While the happy are perhaps more fun to plan and easier to gather large groups of people together, remembering dates like your father’s birthday are equally important dates to set aside time to remember and enjoy who he was and how he’s changed you.

      Thanks so much for reading & sharing your wonderful celebrations!

  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Fantastic blog Molly! Your blog brought back a flood of memories of my childhood and marking anniversaries and special moments with our family and close friends. You have me especially thinking of my brother, Rick, who even as a small boy would stand and read every detail of an historical monument or marker while we were on a family trip. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of passing on traditions and celebrating significant anniversaries with my own children.

    • Thank you so much Becky!! So glad this blog brought back good memories for you! The things you celebrate and remember with your kids now really will make an impact on them, even if they don’t realize it immediately : )

  • Bryce Keating

    you are a particularly unique soul, Molly. Your parents’ passions, fierce and rare in themselves, left an equally fierce and rare imprint on you. Your sentimentality and hunger for information are just a few of traits that have blossomed out of those seeds that your parents implanted in you. They are an amazingly complimentary pair that make you such a gifted writer and a blessing to me and everyone else who knows you. My mind tends to dwell in the future, I’m continually looking forward; so thank you for continually “tapping me on the shoulder” with blogs like these, to look to the past, as it is the carpenter of our futures.

    • Well bless my soul! Bryce Keating is leaving me a comment! Thank you so much for your sweet words, your compliments, and for letting me be me. I couldn’t do it so well without you. And thank you for doing your part to bring me forward into the future with you – no one else I’d rather see it with. Love you!

  • Jeff Turner

    Good stuff Molly. I can remember watching the Ken Burns series “The Civil War” and later the movie “Gettysburg” and for the first time really beginning to appreciate the significance of this period and this horrible battle. I still cannot fathom the willingness of men to endeavor into such horror over ideas. The idea that all men should be free verses the idea that people could be property. That States rights should trump a centralized Federal government. “Lincoln” is now my favorite movie about the period. Many amazing men rose to the occasion, some had their character flaws exposed and others showed what the worst of men can do.

    It is a fascinating time full of worthy behavioral study where we can learn from both the positive and negative examples of what people do in such times. I loved the quote of Benjamin Franklin’s you posted yesterday, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write thins worth reading or do things worth writing.”

    This is at the heart of why we remember the men and the events of times like the American Civil War.

    Thanks for this writing Molly

    • Thanks so much for reading! Lincoln is probably one of the best movies I’ve seen, period. What an incredible & honest depiction of this time. And how cool is it that almost all of the films out there on this do such a great job presenting the sides and the realities behind them? Pretty unique.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts & experiences, so interesting to hear how history continues to shape us even on a very personal level.

  • Anne Anderson Collins

    Happy 4th Molly. We all have a lot to be proud of, when we look back upon the bloody battlefields of history that were fought so we could be free and so we could enjoy all that we still have in this country. While some of the things we collectively fret over with regard to political correctness drives me nuts, we still have the best place on the planet to call home. May we always desire to protect it in our hearts and thoughts and be proud to salute our flag and our current servicemen and women and get goosebumps when we see the fireworks or, in your case, chew endlessly on a piece of hard tack. My daddy thought that was a staple of life and it was always found in our pantry when I was very young.
    Thanks for taking us back. Anne

    • Anne, you are so right about how important it is to keep the BIG idea of America in the forefront, especially as we celebrate the 4th. Politics itself makes me a little nuts for the most part, but our country is still a great place, still full of freedoms and rights that so many others are without.

      I watched a video late last night of servicemen being reunited with and surprising their families & little kids – OH MY GOSH did I cry my eyes out. Those men and women will forever have my respect.

      Thanks for reading & sharing your perspective!

  • Amen, Chuck! It’s that exact sentiment about the cost of Freedom that makes days like the 4th so very precious and valuable in the fabric of our country. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and reminding me of the power of that phrase.

  • Greg, oh my goodness. Your passion just brought tears to my eyes! I love your story, the casualness of your decision to visit, the normal hopes & anxieties that come with seeing something new, and then the complete and surprising hold that the place grabbed you with.

    I remember going on a tour in our car as a kid with a real person driving my family and I around the battle field telling us where everything was. I was only 11 or so and was bored out of my mind for 3 hours as my mom asked more and more questions and pro-longed the tour well beyond the 2 hours allotted. It wasn’t until my 2nd and 3rd visit that I really began to feel the emotional pull and historical weight of the place. It kind of does just sneak up on you when you least expect it.

    Now, obviously, my relationship and view of Gettysburg has matured and become much closer to your experience and view. It’s a place that evokes the emotion and passion you so clearly were filled with.

    THANK YOU so much for sharing your beautiful trip & your glowing thoughts, I absolutely loved reading your comment. THANK YOU GREG!

  • Christopher Iverson

    Molly,

    The greatest gift that your walk through history has resented to you is the time shared with your mother and her passion. I see that as the true “hallowed ground.” Enjoy the journeys with your memories!

  • So maybe I come visit sometime? I would love to be given a tour by an expert like yourself!