Family in the Cemetery

Family in the Cemetery

The passing of Maureen Westover this month came as a sudden shock, as sometimes can happen.

This past week her funeral was held as family from all over the country gathered together physically and virtually to celebrate her life. There an incredible story was told.

Her story is not over. And another story is emerging that I believe is of great significance and huge value to anyone calling themselves family – especially for Maureen’s children and grandchildren.

As I write this there are seven vehicles carrying a large number of those so important to Maureen from California to Idaho for her burial.

Maureen is a native Californian with roots in the Bay Area. There she and Gale raised their children. For them, California has been the scene of so much life and family history.

But Rexburg is where Maureen, and I assume that someday, Gale, will rest.

I’m sure that was not the original plan. I’m certain the strange politics and expense of California has something to do with it.

Those details aside, I see the coming of a new story to the cemetery in Rexburg as a continuation of an old story. I pray the real significance of this is not lost of those of Maureen’s children and grandchildren left behind.

I hope they all come to understand that this is actually a blessing and, I believe, an answer to prayers given by one of our grandfathers many, many years ago.

The Rexburg cemetery resides on land that once belonged to family members. I believe we have shared this story before but I will recount it here again briefly.

A man by the name of Walter Paul came to Utah with his father, who was a rather well-known furniture maker. Walter and his brothers all learned that trade and when Walter married and started raising a family with his first wife he moved to Logan, Utah where he opened a furniture store.

Years later, after many children were born to him and his wife and after his furniture business had prospered, Walter’s wife suddenly passed away. Given that they had many children and several of them were quite young, Walter needed to remarry and he chose a young bride by the name of Emma Westover, of Mendon, Utah.

Emma was actually close in age to one of Walter’s oldest daughters and they were, in fact, good friends. But Emma was not a plural wife.

It was their intent to have children of their own – and to build a new life. Before long, Walter was asked to join a group of local men in Cache Valley who were assigned to settle the Rexburg area.

Walter opened a new store in the frontier town of Rexburg and, in fact, took on many roles within the community. He was a constable, very active in church leadership, a frequent host and producer of local plays in the theater and a justice of the peace. He was, conveniently, also the town undertaker and the primary source of caskets.

Walter and Emma, like everyone else in Rexburg in the 1880s staked a claim under the Homestead Act. This famous legislation provided them with at least 40 acres for free if they developed it and made it productive within five years.

This was a daunting task for Walter because building a house and managing a farm was a lot of work on top of all his other duties.

In fact, he decided he couldn’t do it and would “quarter” his claim. That meant dividing his property into four equal parts and having others develop the land for him. This was evidently a common practice, especially for men in Walter’s kind of situation.

One quarter of the land went to a local that Walter wanted to help. Another quarter went to his brother in law, our great grandfather William Westover, father to Arnold who was the father of Darrell – Grandpa to Gale and Maureen’s children.

William’s story is one we should all get to know.

The opportunity for him and his young bride, Ruth, in the 1880s to get some land that could be their own to raise a family on was significant to William. He wanted something lasting that he could give to his children. That was something his father could not do for him and something his father had never had himself.

So, William and Ruth went to work and it was brutally hard. Harsh winters, dry summers and the swampland that became the Westover Ranch was not an easy project to develop. Their poverty was severe.

As their children were born and they fought the challenges and disease of the time, they also had to contend with a struggling local economy that was devasted by a lingering depression during the 1890s.

That same depression devastated the finances of Walter and Emma Paul.

They went into bankruptcy and it was complicated.

Sadly, the finances of Walter Paul directly affected the hopes of William and Ruth and they stood to lose all they had invested and could do nothing about it.

But Walter was an influential man who could see no good in everyone losing everything in Rexburg and having to walk away.

With others, he worked with federal regulators to not only save the land but the entire community that was on the brink of becoming a ghost town.

In the end one of Walter’s quarters would be “donated” to become the community cemetery.

William and Ruth could claim the land they had already been working for years and could press forward by starting over – and agreeing to a payment arrangement.

When this arrangement was made there was no way William Westover could know that he was sick with a cancer that would prematurely take his life.

But when he found out, he re-doubled his efforts to make the farm produce and to pay it off before he passed.

He barely made it.

Within weeks of his death he cleared the debt and secured the land for his family – all that he could leave for his children and grandchildren. He was only 42.

Those children of William and Ruth, as well as the generation of their grandchildren, never had an easy life in Rexburg.

But it was home to them. It was precious. It reflected the dying wish of a father and grandfather who wanted permanence of his family for generations.

The Westover Ranch has a difficult and interesting story. Very few of us of my generation and beyond have the connection that our grandparents have to the place.

But it has survived thanks to their vision.

Now the cemetery will begin to see new generations laid to rest there.

I do not see Maureen’s burial there as a thing of necessity. I see it as a miracle of connection. I believe it begins a new tradition of coming home that perhaps is something our grandparents never considered.

I cannot help but think that William and Ruth are pleased.

This land is not what is important. The family with this land is what is important.

The Westover and Paul roots in Rexburg should be honored for their sacrifices during their years there. I can think of no better way than coming home to rest when times like this come.

As I have traveled the cemeteries where we find our grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins it has given me great pause for where I will someday be buried.

I think in most cases folks are buried wherever it is they made their home, and that’s okay.

But to come home where home was originally built is a thing of honor and, oddly for me, something of security. It adds to the permanence Grandpa William was seeking.

I hope when Maureen is buried there that some time is taken to consider all the Westovers and Pauls already buried in that rural resting place. In the years to come when Maureen’s children and grandchildren come to visit and tell her story I pray they will look around. There are stories aplenty there to learn. Adding Maureen’s story there only enriches the heritage of the family going forward.

I hope other members of the family consider that sacred place for themselves.

They will add to an already great story, too.

A Letter to my Granddaughter

Dear Granddaughter,

Here it is the night of July 4th, 2019, and outside my windows there are fireworks and explosions of my neighbors celebrating Independence Day.

Unlike most years, I’m alone this 4th of July.

Usually we have a gathering and all the family are here. There is food and fireworks and fun — the stuff of family.

But the stuff of family also creates lonely days like this, too.

I’m here alone because your Gram has gone out to Atlanta to be there for your birth. It has been 18 long months since she has seen your parents and your brothers.

That’s too long to be separated. Being here alone knowing that Gram is catching up, playing her roles as mother and grandmother, is enough for me to endure the solitude. You are worth it.

It’s not good to be alone. The Lord never intends us ever to be alone and that’s one reason why he put us in families.

It might seem weird for a man to write a letter to a yet-to-be-born granddaughter. But it’s not weird to me. I’ve written letters to my children – including to your father – every year on or near their birthdays. I just haven’t given the letters to them. I will someday.

But this one I’m putting out there now. I can’t help myself.

You must be someone special because you’re coming to a great family.

I don’t even know your name yet. I’m not even sure your parents know your name.

But I can tell you that you are very much anticipated.

Everyone is talking about you. You don’t know it yet but you’re making history. You are our fifth grandchild but our very first granddaughter. That makes you the first woman of a new generation in the family.

That is significant because the women who came before you in the family have been tremendous individuals. Some you will get to know in this life because they will share this space and some time with you here. But so many others you will only hear about.

I don’t know if it is so but in my mind’s eye they are with you now, in your final hours before you come to this world.

I know that not because I know you but because I know them. I know them to be women of great strength, power, authority, and deep, deep love.

Where else would they be right now than with you, the first woman of a new generation?

There are many things I want to tell you, Granddaughter. There are many things I want you to know.

But first and foremost, as your Grandpa, I would echo what your grandmothers are whispering into your ears right now: I love you.

We love you. Your parents and your brothers love you. And that is all that matters.

You see, when I walk through the cemeteries looking upon those names and dates – some from those very grandmothers and grandfathers you are with right now as I write this – I do not see teachers and farmers and construction workers and doctors and scholars.

I see only mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and aunts, uncles and cousins. I see only family.

I see only the fruits of love.

The rest of that stuff is not really important. Granted, it might be interesting, in many respects, to learn the details of their earthly journey. In time I hope you come to gain an appreciation for those things and, like me and many others, take up the work of learning and honoring their history.

It is a worthwhile endeavor and one that will go far to helping you understand your identity, Granddaughter.

But Granddaughter, as you begin your life I hope your eyes reach far out to the horizon and long into the eternities. There is much more to this life than this life.

The world explains this life as ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I would explain it differently.

You are first a spirit child of God. You have been held in reserve to come forth at this time. You must therefore be someone very special.

Your presence here is merely a stopping point on a longer journey.

This is why love is your legacy – and my legacy – and the legacy of all who came before. It’s not who we are here, or what we accumulate, or what name we gain for ourselves here.

Love rises above the things of this world.

Of love you were created and of love you will be remembered.

In just a matter of days, maybe even hours, Little One, you will come into this world naked and probably crying.

In time, like all who have gone before us, you will likely leave this world the very same way.

It is what we all have in common, this thing called love.

You will spend your life trying to understand love, trying to define it, trying to convey it.

Some will accept it from you, and some won’t know how to accept it from you.

Love, you see, isn’t easy and it is not automatic in this world.

And yet, we are, in our physical state, the result of love.

Right now I would tell you that your Mom and your Dad are feeling a lot of anxiety.

I’m very proud of them.

Right on the heels of your birth they will celebrate their 7th wedding anniversary. Not many thought they would make it that far – me included, I was one of the doubters.

But here they are, welcoming you, their third child and their first little girl. Who would have known 7 years ago they would have you and your brothers?

That’s a miracle. That’s what love does. It produces miracles.

Mommy and Daddy are anxious right now because they have never had a daughter before. They want to do it well. I believe that with all my heart. I see them now, and how they work with your brothers, and I’m a believer in them. I’m proud of them.

You will not know or understand the anxiety they feel right now for many, many years. Probably not until you walk in those shoes yourself.

Anxiety is really just another expression of love, by the way. It’s a good thing.

They are worried about paying the bills. They are worried about giving you a name. They are worried about their other children, those fine grandsons of ours.

Your Mom and Dad are worried about how to dress you, how to feed you, how to make you feel safe and warm and loved. They are thinking of everything from teaching you to speak to giving you an education. They are thinking about how you are going to change the world.

No, not the big world outside — they will leave that to you.

They are worried about how you are going to change their world and believe me, Granddaughter, you have changed their world already.

You have taken them from four to five and you have already been the topic of many deep-in-the-night conversations between your Mom and Dad because you change everything.

You are their little girl and that’s new.

All that is love, Granddaughter.

Then there’s the rest of us. Your cousins, your aunts, your grandparents on every side…good grief, we’re a handful.

And we’re going to be all over you.

That’s love, too, by the way. It might be the kind that drives you crazy, but it is love nonetheless.

So too will your brothers drive you nuts and I guarantee you there is nothing but love behind them.

As of this writing they are ages 3 and 6. We have only known love from them. They are and will be outstanding men – because of love.

Your gender is important, Granddaughter.

It is unchangeable. That was written upon your soul long before you were etched as a reality in the hearts of your parents.

The world is going to try to convince you otherwise on this point. They will try to confuse you.

Out of an abundance of love I urge you to resist such foolish notions.

Your gender has a purpose. It is woven in your spirit, your intelligence, in all that you are — both for potential and for growing, ironically, in spirit and in intelligence.

Do not dismiss the gift that your gender is.

You will find, as you contemplate all those people before you who loved you without knowing you, that their gender went a long way in bringing you forth at this time.

Yup. You are not just a creation of your Mom and Dad. You are a child of God first. You are the fulfillment of every father and mother that make up your DNA. They are your family, your blood. They are all love.

I have written this and posted it here because you are making family history – just as they all did.

And someday, perhaps when you are a grandmother yourself and maybe after you have ended your mortal journey there will be others you call grandchildren who may read these words.

They will love you for being you, too.

You see, we are forever a part of each other – backwards and forwards in time. That’s what love does, too.

Now, as your Grandpa, I could go on and on.

But I am hoping to have time with you soon to peer into your eyes, to learn your little personality, to see and enjoy your light.

In time I hope to get to know your life, your little smile, indeed the very important things in your heart.

As I do I will try to say to you all the things I feel about you, and I want you to know I feel them already, even though you’re not here yet.

I want to tell you about your Mom and your Dad. I want to tell you about your cousins and your aunts. I want to give to you what knowledge I have of our ancestors going back hundreds of years.

I want to share all this with you because it’s all love and it will help you.

I cannot tell you all. And that’s because half of your story is written by your Mother’s side and I don’t know those stories.

You are going to have to seek them out, both for you and for the sake of your children and grandchildren.

I know you can do that. I expect you to do that.

Is that right of me to do, to place any kind of expectation on you at all?

Yes, it is and it is done out of love. The world condemns the Patriarchy but I still believe in it. The patriarchy is what got you here and the patriarchy is what will take you home. Never forget that.

The role of patriarch is sacred to me on every level. I take it very seriously.

Your family, from every side, will protect you.

The more you get to know them here, and get to know their past as well as their present, will serve you. I promise that if you seek them out they will be there for you.

This is your Grandfather not giving you a command, you see. I’m giving you the wisdom of my experience. That is part of my patriarchal role and it is one I learned from my father and grandfathers.

Without knowing your family past you deny yourself a gift of love that may just prove the difference in surviving the evils of this world.

I know that sounds dramatic, but I swear to you it is true.

I want you as well to know God. You are His child. That makes Him family. Do you see how this works? Your heritage is endless, just as is your potential. You are part of something great. You are glorious.

Granddaughter, as the fireworks in the sky explode outside my window, I feel cause to celebrate.

But the fireworks are gone from that sky almost as fast as they brilliantly explode.

They are a thing of this world. As such, they are too temporary, too ordinary, and much too insufficient to convey what it is I’m celebrating.

Now, the fireworks more appropriate for you are in the same night sky.

They are the stars – the brilliant artwork of God that sings forth praises.

They did that for another Baby born years ago and they do that now for you.

You are like they are: glorious in every way and a beautiful expression of celebration.

Until I can gaze into your eyes, and see once again the wonder of what God our Father does in bringing forth both Spirit and flesh, I will look at the stars – here by myself – and think about you.

When I do that, I’m not alone.

Your Mother and your Father and your brothers will see you first in this life. They are your family. You’re going to love them all.

Grandma will be there too, looking upon you for us both.

We love you so much. That is the first thing we want you to know.

That is what we always want you to know.

Love,
Grandpa

Yes, Del Shannon is a Westover

If you are of a certain age or just a fan of popular American music then you likely have heard the name Del Shannon. This was Shannon’s first big hit in 1961:

Everyone knows the song. It was, after all, a #1 Billboard hit.

But did you know the Del Shannon is actually a Westover?

Over the course of the years since we launched this site I have been asked at least a dozen times how we might be related to Del Shannon, who was actually born as Charles Weedon Westover in 1934.

I have largely dismissed the question because it most often comes from outside the family.

Shannon was famous and still has millions of fans. Sometimes they come here seeking more information about him.

I am not really interested in exploiting Shannon’s memory as an artist for the sake of family history, plus we are merely distant cousins at best.

But… when the question comes from within the family – and this time it has – I suppose the time has come to at least talk about it.

So here is the tale of how Del Shannon is actually a Westover:

If you have watched our video titled Brothers you should be familiar with the name John Westover, a grandson of Jonah Westover, Sr. from whom we all descend. This John Westover lived in Sheffield, Massachusetts where he was clerk of the local church and a prominent member of the community.

I focus on this John Westover a lot for three reasons: first, John and his wife Rachel had by far the largest family of their generation. Second, of their 12 children, 7 of them were boys – Levi, John, Job, Moses, William, Noah and Amos (our line comes through Amos). These men would do much to carry forward the Westover name in North America in many places.

Why? Well, that’s the third reason: the sons of John and Rachel Westover with all the Biblical names came of age during the American Revolution.

After the war was over they set off in seemingly all directions to explore the frontier. Today their great grandchildren are all over the world, but mostly in the U.S. and especially in Canada.

John and Rachel’s 2nd son, also named John, stayed in Sheffield, Massachusetts. All of his children with his wife Ruffus were born on the family homestead in Sheffield.

John, a farmer, and Ruffus, had seven children, the sixth born being a son named Issac.

Issac covered some ground during his life time.

When he was around the age of 24 he can be found in Connecticut where he married a woman named Polly Wales. Shortly after they married in 1798, they traveled to Quebec, where they more than likely found the beginnings of a new life near great uncle Moses Westover, who had fled to Canada after the war.

(Moses, along with brother Job, were loyalists. Even though they enlisted and served with a Colonial militia during the Revolution, opportunities in post-war Sheffield were not great for loyalists).

Anyway, Issac and Polly would have two children in Quebec before Polly passed away at the age of 23 in the year 1803. Two years later Issac would marry again, this time to a woman named Tamer Emma. Together they would have four children including a boy they named Charles Edward Westover.

Charles Edward Westover would wed a woman named Sabra Mindwell Gleason. While this couple met in New England they move their family to Haldimand Township in Ontario, Canada.

Together they had four children including a son they named Jonathan Gleason.

Jonathan Gleason Westover was a blacksmith in an area that would come to be known as Gleason’s Corner. He and his wife, Jane Rae, eventually would take their family to Michigan and would have a son they named Jonathan Gleason Westover, Jr.

JGW Jr. was a merchant for many years in the community of Nunica, Michigan and with his wife, Edith, would have 6 children including a son they named Burt Leon Westover. Jonathan Gleason Westover, from the pictures at least, is the very image of a family man:

His son, Burt, would stay in the community and become a mailman known to most in the small farming community of Coopersville. Burt Leon Westover married Leone Mosher and they had a son they named Charles Weedon Westover – who then went on to fame as Del Shannon.

Where did the name Weedon come from? Shannon’s maternal grandfather was named Weeden Henry Mosher.

Is there anything in the family history of Charles Weedon Westover that would foretell his talent for music?

Not really. His many biographies say he was taught the ukulele by his mother and that he took so passionately to the instrument that by fourteen his guitar skills were very well developed.

Shirley Westover, Shannon’s wife, would later comment that if there was anything genetic that affected the life of Del Shannon it was alcoholism.

Complicating matters for Shannon was a natural melancholy which would lead to fits of both creativity and depression. Many feel these qualities would later be an influence in his popular music.

He picked up gigs in local night clubs in Grand Rapids, married his childhood sweetheart (Shirley) in 1955 and then was drafted into the Army in 1956. While there he played in a band called the “Cool Flames”.

After his military service Charles returned to Coopersville and took different jobs in his home town.

He worked in a carpet store and was a strawberry picker for a while. At night and on weekends he continued to play with a country rock band at a local bar. Over the next several years as he grew in experience he signed a record contract and had to come up with a new name.

He adopted the name Del Shannon because Westover, he said, “had no ammunition.”

It is said the name “Del” came from a Cadillac Coupe de Ville driven by the manager of his carpet store job and “Shannon” was a wrestler name a friend wanted to adopt.

It should be noted that Shannon never completely abandoned his Westover identity. Even a 1968 album would be titled The Further Adventures of Charles Westover.

Shannon’s career foreshadowed the arrival of the Beatles by a couple of years and came after the phenomenon of Elvis. His rush to fame was no less spectacular than those artists and at times it was a bit much for the small town artist, Chuck Westover (as we he was known locally). All of it was overwhelming.

In fact, his history notes that when he made it big he returned home to a mixed welcome by the community. He had many supporters but the town mayor wasn’t one of them. They just were not yet sure about rock ‘n roll in Coopersville, Michigan.

Del Shannon would go on to a storied music career, ending up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. Despite his success Shannon would eventually succumb to his depression when he died by suicide in 1990.

In tracing the genealogy of Charles Weeden Westover I noticed that the recorded histories of his parents and grandparents dating all the way back to John Westover in Sheffield around 1775 is pretty scarce. There is a lot of work to be done there.

I suspect, as with all of us, the story of Del Shannon cannot be fully understood until the life experiences of his ancestors can be fully discovered.

A Vision for Rootstech

Is anyone out there going to Rootstech this year?

Rootstech is the world’s largest convention dedicated to family history. From all over the world people gather to learn more about family history research and to connected with resources, vendors and experts related to geneaology.

It is held every winter in Salt Lake City, Utah and now another event is planned for the fall of 2019 in London.

Rootstech is not cheap. It costs about $200 for entry to the four day event, although it is quite easy to score free tickets for the usual Family Discovery Day offered on the last day of the event. The event offers classes on a number of family search related topics as well as speakers from all over who provide instruction and motivation. I am lucky enough to live close enough to Salt Lake to attend Rootstech most years and I will be going again February 27th through March 2nd.

I know there are others in the family who either attend this event each year or hope to attend it in the future. I have a hope that we can someday gather whatever family can attend Rootstech to meet up and share resources.

My vision for it would extend to something even greater if we could drum up enough interest. On the Sunday after Rootstech I would like to see us host our own family gather dedicated to our family history. This could be held close to Salt Lake City and live-streamed to family anywhere. The combination of Rootstech the conference with a family event dedicated to family history would be a great way to improve our collective efforts, to foster greater momentum in pushing the work forward and to build a love for our heritage with our children and grandchildren.

Such a family gathering could showcase talks given by family members, especially the elderly who cannot travel but want to contribute. It could easily share gathered information, photos and videos that others perhaps have not seen and it could generate ideas from family folks engaged in the work from all over.

That would be the eventual vision. For now I would settle on just knowing who would be at Rootstech this year and who wants to meet up if you are going. If you are, please fill out the information below so I can contact you:

The Vital Importance of the In-Law Family

Sharon ThomasMy wife and I just returned from a fairly quick trip to California to attend the memorial service for Sandy’s aunt. It was a refreshing and even fun event. I learned a great deal.

Sandy’s Aunt Sharon is a fixture in the family. Sister to Sandy’s Mom, she has always been part of every gathering and Sandy’s growing up years will filled with her presence and influence.

I personally cannot claim more than maybe a dozen interactions over the past thirty years with Aunt Sharon — but what an impact those interactions have had.

I wish I had the time to tell her children all that I’ve learned from her.

Three great things come to mind: parents, children and family.

Sharon, to me, was one who greatly honored and admired her parents. I did not share her growing up years or see much of her interaction with them as others have but to me she always spoke with respect and admiration for her parents.

This to me has always been a hallmark of greatness in a person and it was one of my earliest impressions of Sharon. She was one of the grateful.

Sharon also had the heart of a mother.

She took great pride in her children and grandchildren. After inquiring after my own children, Aunt Sharon would always tell me about hers. They were clearly her life and greatest joy.

This might not seem an unusual trait but in a world where shifting values relating to women and men alike I see it as a standout characteristic. To Sharon, there was no greater title than “Mom” and she wore it proudly.

Sharon also struck me as one being intensely loyal. I rarely saw her alone – she was almost always at my in-laws or we all went over there. Her sisters were honestly and truly her best friends.

That too has come to an elevated status in my eyes. Loyalty such as Sharon’s is my greatest aspiration for my children and it thrills me they have seen it in their great aunts and others in all sides of the family.

I fear it is more rare than it used to be and it is my hope my children continue to work on and value those sibling relationships. They will never find better or truer friends.

Of course, Sharon’s kids knew all this about their Mom, as did my dear wife and her entire family.

It was a joy to me to listen to Sharon’s children at her service and to learn more of her history. Here was a single Mom who clearly overcame great obstacles. Her sacrifices have inspired the lives of her children and they know it. What profound expressions of love I heard from them all.

I hope what they say about the dead attending their own funerals is true. Because to me no greater reward from this life could have been better for Sharon than to hear the words spoken of her by her children this weekend.

It had to be hard for them to do, as I understand better than anyone, but they were things that had to be said and I was privileged to hear them.

I wish my children could have been there because, once again, a good funeral is an important educator in family history.

From these events comes context, understanding and great inspiration. Sharon was an inspiration to so many in ways I never knew.

With events like this comes an elevated level and understanding of love.

This weekend was also a time of renewal and recognition.

Renewal, in the sense that relationships in the family – all of them: parent/child, sibling, cousin, aunts and uncles – and in-laws — are important and play a critical role in our ever expanding knowledge of love.

And recognition in the sense that we are all getting older and our roles are slightly shifting – and new responsibilities in the pursuit of love are emerging as part of those family relationships.

I have the best in-laws in the world. They shine time and time again in so many ways. This weekend they hosted us and regaled us with memories and hope.

I worry in no small measure for my Mother in law, whose loss of her sister just cannot be fully stated. Sharon was more than a sibling and childhood playmate – she was a sister and confidant of the highest order.

We all know the circle of life. We know these days come but even still your heart cannot help but mourn for one who suffers such a loss.

Even still, both Sandy’s Mom and Dad were so free with their thoughts, feelings and emotions as we discussed all the family, both past and present.

There were times where I felt we were on sacred ground in that living room of their home where so many moments of time critical to our own history have passed. It was in that living room where I asked Sandy’s Dad for her hand. It was in that living room where we have shared celebrations, announced our babies, shared moments of hard news, so many laughs and so many tears. Our time this weekend in that room was quite sacred to me.

But it was while we were at lunch with Sandy’s sister, Terri, and her family that I think the most important moment of the weekend happened.

Terri expressed a tearful hope that we could get together as a family at least once a year – in some way.

Terri has a gold heart. She is so right-on in her thinking.

When I think of loyalty as a virtue I think of Terri and this great attribute of the Gillen family I married into. Despite all the many differences there is a fierce loyalty to family and one just steps up, no matter the circumstances, to be present, concerned and responsible for family.

Terri cheers from a distance, runs to rescue, quickly defends, proudly accepts and unhesitatingly encourages family from every side. She is a resource for my children, though I fear they may not all yet grasp the treasure that she is.

I could say the same for her husband, Adam. He is as good a man as I know.

As time passes I struggle with how to adequately record the family history that happens with my in-law family.

Sandy’s Dad, for example, is a natural master storyteller. My kids just love it when Pops gets on a roll and tells of tale of the old days. He gets lost in details, and laughs before anyone else, anticipating a story’s climax and putting the listener there in the emotion of the moment. In every instance, even though he doesn’t know it, he’s educating us all about the character and greatness of those he has loved.

This weekend he told me some more stories.

I struggle with what to do with that knowledge. The writer in me wants to record them on paper but honestly I can’t do justice to Pop’s verbal skills.

I have, over the years, invested a bit of time working on the family history of both my in-laws and trying to help Sandy with her efforts to organize it.

There is a great emigrant story there and, like others we’ve seen in the family, powerful examples of work, hope, faith and overcoming that we can find useful in our lives.

But I have felt restrained in a measure with recording history from my in-law family. Frankly, it’s not my inspiration and revelation to receive. That is for Sandy and her siblings, and all our collective children. I know that as they engage in that work they will find as many miracles as I have in pursuing my bloodlines.

Yet at the same time I think of my father, and the impact he had on the forth coming of the story of my mother’s family. I think how that has shaped and influenced Dad. I know I have a part to play in my in-law family history but I want to make sure it is the right place.

And I hope I live long enough to see one of my children or nephews or nieces take up that challenge and own it. They deserve great attention.

My in-law family has a huge influence on my children and grandchildren. I’m grateful for that because individually they are strong and good people. Collectively they are a powerful influence for good.

I believe the contributions of mothers and grandmothers are endless upon the generations. As I look back I find the stories of the maternal families complete the histories of the paternal families in significant ways.

We must never forget them. In fact, we need to pursue them and champion them as best we can.

I say this as a man with six daughters who will all have a heritage to share as yet new branches to the family are created in the generations ahead.

It has been a tough year. There have been a lot of funerals this year. But at the same time there has been a more complete and comprehensive picture develop of the breadth and depth of our families.

There were times this weekend when I felt rooms full of people. This weekend was different because I had in a real sense the feeling that many were there I did not know.

That didn’t matter. They were there. I could feel them. I know who they are. They are family. Whether they were from my in-law family or the families of my parents I know not. And it doesn’t matter – because they are all family.

With each passing day Malachi 4:6 means more and more to me. And it is miraculous.