Sunday, January 11, 2015

Historia magistra vitae est

Great Grandparents, Edward Henry and Charlotte Anne Cornwall
Photographer unknown - England

Historia vero testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriae, magistra vitae, nuntia vetustatis, qua voce alia nisi oratoris immortalitati commendatur?

- Cicero, De Oratore, II, 36.

By what other voice, too, than that of the orator, is history, the evidence of time, the light of truth, the life of memory, the directress of life, the herald of antiquity, committed to immortality?

History is the light; it is life's teacher. The older I get, the more I find myself looking back, at times, comparing the lives of my elders to my own. Running their experiences and lessons up against my own meager accomplishments. Perhaps it is a sense of life now passing too quickly, perhaps there is now less than more remaining to me in this earthly realm. 

Normal behaviours begin to feel like a waste of time when there is so much to see out there, so much to do. I know what you are thinking: Hello, Mid-life Crisis!

You may be right. I don't know. If this is mid-life, I'm stoked. If that means I get another fifty odd years ahead of me, I'll take it. I don't want to be near the end. I feel like I'm just hitting my stride. It's taken me this long to untangle the web, to dismantle the demons of the past, to understand and, mostly, forgive. 

I write to shed light, selfishly and, hopefully, for others to gain insight. I find as more time passes, I want to reconnect with my past. I am intending to travel back to the UK and France this year, to walk the footsteps of my mother during the second world war, to visit the grave of her lover in France - he was shot down over Bretagne. He rests in Guidel. I want to visit to honour his life - that which he gave for his country and the heart that he gave to my mother. I know I come from a long line of warriors and mine is the first generation not to fight in many, many generations.

I want to listen to the stories of my cousin, to learn the past of my family and to understand myself better through this search, for I do believe that history is the light, that each story is a line on my face, a glint of colour in my eye and a beat of my heart. Listen. Listen to the elders, to our families and friends as they age and prepare to move on. This is the greatest inheritance we can receive and share. 

May history teach us and guide us forward with love and compassion for our fellow beings. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. January 11, 2015.

 Edward Henry Cornwall Circa 1870

I believe this is my paternal grandfather's brother, Francis, at age 18

Great Grandmother Wilkins pre-1920

 Grandfather WC Jay circa 1912

My paternal grandfather, Albert Cornwall - Home Guard,1940, front, third from the right

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