“The road to ‘you know where’ is paved with good intentions,” my brother-in-law used to say. Oh, how I wish my life’s intentions were a reality!
Had all my good intentions materialized, my house would always be sparkling clean, and every meal nutritious, tasty, served artistically and on time. I would arrive early for meetings having read every lesson ahead of time. My knowledge of the gospel would be superb, because I would have studied the scriptures daily with my husband, our children, and on my own. Imagine the wealth of understanding I would have gained from more than 50 years of reading every word in every church magazine! Of course I would have kept a daily journal without fail, have my personal history up to date, the family photos organized and preserved, complete with identification and mounted in archival-quality albums. And the research on all my ancestors back to the year 1500 would all be complete. Not one soul would be missed.
So just how does one do everything? As far as family history is concerned, most people I talk to say, “After my children are grown I will have more time.” Or, “When I retire I’ll work on genealogy.” Then they quote Ecclesiastes and declare that their ‘season’ for family history is somewhere in the distant future.
To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 16, 17)
Or in other words, there is a time to get an education, a time to serve a mission, a time to marry and raise children, a time to work, a time to play, a time to serve. But what about family history? Does it have a season?
After high school graduation, I found myself living in Salt Lake City convenient to the Family History Library then in the basement of the old Montgomery Ward building. I spent some time copying pedigree charts and family group sheets from enormous binders. The more I copied, the more I realized there was to copy, and I began to see that family history was not a project to be completed quickly.
Before I had time to really “get into” genealogy, I moved to Provo to attend college at Brigham Young University. It was there I met my future husband. We married at the end of the year, and then came the big move “back East” to St. Paul, Minnesota for graduate school–far from Utah, far from the Family History Library, far from BYU, and far, far from any relative.
Undaunted, I delved into family history projects from time to time while the children were small. I could type, so I helped my aunts prepare family journals, letters, and stories for publication, including Aunt Minnie’s life’s work on our Le Fevre family. “The time will come,” I told myself, “when I can do real research.” Once all the children were in school, I found myself volunteering in the local Family History Center every Thursday. I loved it, all the while becoming more and more excited about the possibilities for research opportunities without actually having to be in Utah. I determined to be ready when my ‘season’ came. As time permitted I took correspondence courses in genealogy from BYU, and, as part of one course, prepared a 400-page history of a great-grandfather.
Hopes for doing my own family history research waned when my husband’s work took us to Spain. My ‘season’ for family history was once more postponed, so I busied myself with trying to learn Spanish and help set up a family history center in Zaragoza. Mysteriously, as soon as the center was up and running, my husband’s work in Spain terminated abruptly, and we found ourselves on our way back home–to Utah, a genealogist’s heaven. It had finally come! This would be my ‘season.’ Much to my dismay, instead of being able to immerse myself in research, for the first time in my married life, it became necessary for me to work full-time, and even though my church service has since revolved around family history callings, little progress has been made researching my own family. What precious time I have had for genealogy has been spent learning and re-learning new genealogy software programs and getting to know the Internet.
Now here I am in the autumn of my life–the so-called golden years. Although I know I have an immortal spirit, there is already evidence that my physical body is failing. It takes more effort and more time just to exist. Not only does everything take longer, but time also goes faster. I know you don’t believe me, but my mother, at the age of 80, told me so. There was a time I could dress in a flash, but that was before elastic support hose and when I could still reach my feet to tie my shoes. Cooking takes longer too now that I have to cook low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-salt, and low-sugar. The list goes on. Failing memory becomes another problem of old age. Memories of the past are crystal clear, while recent memory is fleeting, making it difficult to remember not only what has been done or planned, but what I am now doing.
Suddenly I am struck with the thought that I may not live forever! I never used to think about that when I was younger. Old age seemed so far in the future. Depending on how long I live, I calculate I may have as many as fifteen or as few as five years to do a lifetime of research, if all goes well, and if my eyesight holds out. I’m counting on that promise in Ecclesiastes: “A time for every purpose and for every work.” That would have to include family history, don’t you think? If it does, then I wonder when my season will come. Or did I miss it??