Memory Eternal

It was early, before sunrise, the morning of Wilbur’s funeral, and Grandma was awake, moving about in the kitchen, in her pajamas and bathrobe. She asked me if I wanted come coffee, and from a fresh pot already made, she poured me a cup. I sat at the kitchen table, and she joined me with her own cup of coffee. For the next hour, Grandma told me stories of how she and Grandpa had met, of barn dances, farm life, young romance and hard times.

It was just the two of us. As she talked, I entered with her the stories of her life with Grandpa. Although Grandpa had died more than a decade before, my own memories of Grandpa combined with the stories Grandma was telling.

A few months after that conversation, I found some genealogy documents about the Healy family, and there hidden away in the details of marriages, births, deaths, and hundreds of names of parents, siblings, children, out of nowhere a name leapt to my attention: Clifton Dwight. The name, Clifton, quite literally, appeared out of nowhere among all names listed in the genealogy. Next came Clifton Arthur. Finally, there was Grandpa: Clifton Fitzroy. I knew the rest. My dad was next. I had always been told I was the fifth Clifton. Grandma and Great Aunt Bessie were good to remind me of this all through my childhood. Here, in my thirties, I discovered that chain of names.

Shortly after my father died a year ago, I began to pray the memorial prayers for the dead. These prayers end with chanting, “Memory eternal.” It is a prayer. A plea not simply for everlasting renown, but for everlasting well-being.

Stories and memory, these are the things that make us persons. We do not know who we are apart from stories, the memories of our own lives, and those memories we inherit through story from our parents, our grandparents, our larger families. We do not merely remember events and feelings. We weave those memories together in a narrative. We are the stories we tell ourselves.

The Gospel does not come to us in propositions and syllogisms. It is not a summa, it is a story. Indeed, it is the Story. That is to say, it is the Story that transforms all stories. Our lives are the same group of events, the same set of dramatis personae, but now the plot has changed. In the muddled Middle, there is a twist, a surprise. We see our story differently. It is now part of a larger Story, a subplot that has been woven into the whole. Our memories are reordered. We see things differently.

It is not simply that our own personal stories are reordered and retold. It is that our own stories change. Our plots go in a new directions. We, and all who are ours, become stories in a larger whole. We become part of a community, a community who has its Story. The Story of the Church, the community brought into God himself, the Holy Trinity, by grace. A Story whose beginning stretches from the foundation of the world into a future we do not now see, and a way of everlasting well-being in which our memories, and our stories, will never fade.


My Branch of the Healy Family Tree

Last night I worked through the Healy family genealogy I came across yesterday. I was able to work out the direct line of descent from William to me. A call to Grandma Healy got some of the details surrounding Clifton Dwight and Clifton Arthur worked out. (I’ve left out the information related to my dad and myself.)

It’s just amazing, this finding one’s historical anchors. And as I looked through the genealogy, there’s some very interesting stories interspersed, which I’ll be sharing.
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Healy Genealogy

Bored at work, I did a Google of “Clifton Healy” and came up with this INCREDIBLE page of Healy genealogy.

Why is it incredible you ask?

Scroll down to Generation no. 7, no. 54 “Children of Abiel Healy and Mary Adams,” small Roman numeral iii–almost to the bottom of the page . . . which begins:

“CLIFTON DWIGHT HEALY b. January 21, 1848 in Cedar Co., Ia., m. ELIZABETH BROOKS SATTERWAIT 3/10/1870, who was b. 1/22/1849 in Muscatine Co., Ia. and d. 3/15/1885 in Eldorado, Kan.; m. 2nd MARY M. VAN VALKENBURG 11/11/1887, who was b. 9/24/1855; divorced 3/1901; m. 3rd MARY E. GALLUP 2/24/1903; Res. Eldorado, Kan. 1920; Kan. City, Mo. 1929.”

As far as we have previously known, Clifton Dwight is the furthest back we can go in my own direct family descent in terms of how many Cliftons there were. A quick search on the page of the name “Clifton” shows that Clifton Dwight was indeed the first in this family tree. Which means that, as we have thought all my life, I am, indeed, the fifth Clifton (though not Clifton the Fifth).

If you read a little further into the paragraph of children, born-dates/death-dates, marriages, you’ll come to:

“CLIFTON ARTHUR HEALY b. 3/9/1885, m. CORA BUELL 2/14/1910; Res. Latham, Kan. (Had; BEULAH DIMPLE HEALY b. 2/18/1911, CORA OLIVE HEALY b. 6/12/1912, CLIFTON FITZROY HEALY b. 8/9/1913)”

And Clifton Fitzroy is my own grandfather.

Here is a page describing the Healy family crest.
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Grandpa Healy’s Legacy

I had a great time reminiscing with Grandma this past week. (If you remember, Grandma lost her second husband, Wilbur, last month.) She spoke quite a bit about my late grandfather, Clifton F. Healy.

I am, as far as we know, the fifth Clifton in an unbroken line on the Healy side of the family. We know that the tradition of naming the first male Clifton began with Clifton Dwight Healy. His son was Clifton Arthur, whose son, my grandfather, was Clifton Fitzroy. And my father is Clifton Howard. Should God bless Anna and me with a son, he will be Clifton Delane.
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Clifton Fitzroy Healy, 9 August 1913-10 February 1991

At work, one of my rather mindless tasks is to test books for pH levels. This requires the demanding duty of placing a small amount of water on the page of a book, and placing a sensor tube in the drop of water. Then I wait a few minutes until the pH level registers, and record that level on a piece of paper. However, despite this riveting work, I am able to read while I do it.

One of the books I’ve been reading lately is Victor Davis Hanson’s Fields Without Dreams, in which Hanson, a classicist specializing in early Greek warfare and agriculture, describes the decline of his family’s fruit tree farm and vineyard, and those of the surrounding area, near Alma, California. Reading that book really brought to mind my late grandfather, Clifton F. Healy.
Continue reading “Clifton Fitzroy Healy, 9 August 1913-10 February 1991”