In life we make lists, we separate or compartmentalize our things and experiences. We organize and categorize our living. Yet in the end everything is connected, there is no separation in reality. Okay so maybe I am just trying to explain this to myself. Why? I do have a reason and it goes something like this:
A couple of months ago I found myself in York England living out a dream I’d had for many years. Although born and raised in England I now live in the States so going home is a much looked forward to tradition. But this was a homecoming of a different kind. I was travelling alone in England for six weeks and I would finally have time to live out some of my long-held dreams.
Why York and what does it have to do with Life Story writing? My great-grandfather Alfred William Hill was born and raised in York. From what little we know that has been passed down he sang in the York Minster and was trained as an Organ Builder no likely at the Minster too. So what relevance does that have to me today? Well for one I was born a Hill and secondly I carry some of his genes. I don’t know about you but for me there is a strong connection to the past, where I came from and who I came from that helps me better understand and appreciate who I am and maybe even why I am the person I am. Now that has direct bearing on your Life Story right?!
My time in York was short but I was there and I reveled in that simple delight. To think that I was walking where he walked, seeing in part what he had seen. Well lets face it the Minster Cathedral hasn’t changed that much since he was there. I was even hearing some of what he had heard as that beautiful organ bellowed out her ancient melodies that lifted our thoughts and eyes heaven ward. At Evensong I sat a few rows away from the choir stalls and imagined him as a boy singing there. As the organ played I wondered if he had been trained as an organ builder by knowing some of the intricacies of that organ. As I climbed the tower up its several hundred steps to the view of the spreading city below I wondered if he had ever seen his world from that perspective.
I thought about his life, how he left this beautiful city to come to the industrial and blackened country of the Midlands. Did he miss his family? Did he miss his home? He had married the daughter of an organ builder who had gone to York to work on the Minster organ, or at least that is what we are told. Alfred married Bertha and they had four children. Bertha was carrying their fifth child when she heard the news. Her husband Alfred was dead, killed in an accident at work. He had been working on repairing a lift (elevator) when it fell on him and crushed him. He was just a young 35 years.
My mind was brought back to present day as I stood there in the Minster, breathless with its beauty and its enormity. These two worlds present and past seemed momentarily to converge as it was as if I could feel Alfred so close that I half expected him to come from behind a closed-door and great me with sparkling eyes and a infectious smile!
Although long gone from this world, I believe my great-grandfather exists as a spirit being, that he is aware of my life here. I find it realistic to believe that knowing of my visit to York, knowing of my awareness of him, that it is quite possible that he joined me in spirit there that day. Real or imagined, I was there and it impacted me.
What can I take from this? Alfred was born an illegitimate child of my great-great grandmother who was in service as a servant in great house at the time. Taken in and raised by his grandparents as one of their own Alfred made something of his life. We know of his love of music and singing and his ability to build and create. We know he dared greatly to leave his home and move to a new place and made a new life. We know even in those impoverished and challenging times he found love and married, raised children. In his short life he truly lived his dreams with passion and conviction.
Thank you Alfred for the legacy: Create, Dream, Love and Live!
Is there someone from your past, recent or distant that you feel a connection to? What have you learned from them? Write about it! Capture their story from your perspective.