Hope that you spend your days but they all add up. -One Republic, “I Lived”
I heard this song on the radio on the way to work this morning. Usually when I hear it, I think of my grandfather, because it seemed to be getting very popular on the radio around the time he died, just before Thanksgiving last year.
This morning, I was already thinking about Howard Forrer — yes, my favorite Civil War soldier.
There are certain dates that stick with me — the ones that are important enough to remember “there’s something about today” but not quite important enough that you are consciously aware of them before they arrive (like a loved one’s birthday or your anniversary or Christmas). The birthdays of my high school friends are like that. Or the anniversary of the day I graduated from college (the first time).
July 22nd is like that.
Howard died July 22, 1864, in the Battle of Decatur, Georgia. He was a 23-year-old unmarried adjutant in the 63rd Ohio. Before he enlisted, he was a young teacher in Dayton, Ohio.
Sometimes I wonder what these long-dead people would think about my (our?) remembering them, researching them, spending any time thinking about them at all. Would they be pleased that anyone remembers them or thinks them worth remembering? Would they be annoyed (or worse angry) at our putting their lives under a microscope? Would they think we’re crazy for wasting our time — our lives, which we still have time to live — recalling theirs?
Would Howard think, Oh it’s nice that you find me so fascinating. I appreciate being remembered. I didn’t have any children, so I’m humbly pleased anyone even remembers my name.
Or would he think, What are you doing? I only got 23 years! All the things I didn’t do? You could do them! What are you doing thinking about me? I’m dead. Go out and do all the things!
(If I’d had access to more of his own writings, I might have some sense of the answer, but I didn’t…so…)
I like to think that people who in life had an interest in history themselves might “get it” — but obviously not every person a historian might research would have cared about such things.
I recently read the following lines in a novel (Rapture by Lauren Kate):
The past is important for all the information and wisdom it holds. But you can get lost in it. You’ve got to learn to keep the knowledge of the past with you as you pursue the present.
You’d think someone who gave the whole “carpe diem” spiel in her high school valedictorian speech might actually internalize the sentiment and not just understand the Latin.
But you’re also talking about the same girl who named her blog “Glancing Backwards” and remembers a certain Civil War soldier every year on the day of his death (and will remember him again in November on the day he was finally laid to rest in his hometown).
It’s hard not to get lost in things, especially when you really want to.