Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stories We Never Hear

Eek. There's been a bit of a lull in my blogging. See, I was busy waging war against a cold that was trying its very hardest to sink its claws into me. I think it's safe to say I won. With the help of several gallons of orange juice, the cold has been vanquished!

Speaking of wars, while I was guzzling OJ I watched a lot of documentaries on the history channel. Keep in mind I was probably slightly inebriated due to mass amounts of citrus and a crazy-busy immune system, but I saw this show on Vimy Ridge and it kind of struck a chord with me.

Under Vimy Ridge, there are a series of tunnels. In the days and weeks preceding the battle, they served as living space for thousands of soldiers - soldiers who were my age - many of whom would never make it home.

The tunnel walls are made of chalk-based rock, and are easy to carve into. Thousands of soldiers chiseled their names, hometowns, girlfriends', wives', and children's names into the walls, along with intricate designs. (Almost none of which I can find on google! Grr!!)

Three thousand five hundred ninety-eight of these people died.

In the documentary, they traced some of these names and found old letters and military records, and in some cases were able to talk to family members, and it gave a little glimpse at who these people had been and what they had done - what adventures they had, what they cared about, what they achieved. And it got me thinking about the stories we lose when people die.

My great-grandpa was a sniper in WWI. On one mission or another, he was creeping around behind a barn, and ran into a German sniper. They sat down and had tea together.

If my great-grandpa had died, there's a very real chance that no one ever would have heard that story. As it is, I can retell it in three lines. I'm sure there was more to it when he first told it. But I'll never know what that 'more' consisted of. I'll never know what they talked about, or why exactly they sat down and had tea together - two soldiers on opposite sides of the war. It's gone. (Unless maybe there's a German teen somewhere whose family does a better job of preserving stories than mine.)

When I look at old photographs, I find myself wondering about these sorts of little stories. Who are the people? What are their names? What did they do? What stories did they have to tell? I'll never know.

Luckily, I'm a writer, and I can make some pretty imaginative guesses. ;)

This hereby concludes today's gloomy blog post.


  1. Awesome post,I had to read it twice since I liked it so much. I love the thoughts you brought up about stories being lost, it's something I think about a lot as well. And I do the same thing with looking at old pictures, trying to imagine the people's stories and what they were thinking when they took a photo and everything :)

    And the tea story is AMAZING

  2. Lovely post, and I totally know what you mean with the stories behind every face... it is fascinating to think about.

  3. Glad your cold has improved! And awesome post, I savored every single sentence ;)

  4. Very thought provoking blog post. Great stuff!

  5. This post made me..reflect. Your great grandpa's story sounds WOW!
    Maybe someday if you plan to write a historical novel, you could put it in..