Reverend Steve Jones: Leaving our descendants something of value
- Credit: Steve Jones
In his latest column, Reverend Steve Jones writes about leaving something of value to descendants
One of the most precious documents that my family owns is a letter written in early 1918 by my great grandmother Annie Jones to her beloved son Reggie.
Reginald George Herbert Jones was born in Wiltshire, in 1895, and grew up to become a devout Christian young man.
For his 18th birthday Annie gave Reggie his own copy of the Holy Bible. At the outbreak of World War One, Reggie was 19 years old. He enlisted in the Grenadier Guards and was soon sent to France.
Probably in January 1918, Reggie was shot and seriously wounded by a German sniper.
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He was evacuated from the frontlines to an American field hospital in the village of Étretat near Le Havre, France.
The American nurse who was caring for Reggie wrote on his behalf to his Wiltshire family to let them know of his situation and his injuries.
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It seems that some letters passed backwards and forwards between the nurse and Annie, although they have sadly been lost.
Tragically, Reggie died of his wounds on the 1st March 1918. He never saw the rolling hills and downs of his beloved Wiltshire again, being laid to rest in the war graves cemetery in Étretat.
The letter that we have in our possession is the one that was returned home, folded inside his Bible, along with all of Reggie’s other personal effects.
This letter, in which Annie expresses her trust in God and prayers for her son, and her hope for better news, we believe arrived just before or just after Reggie’s death.
My father showed me the letter and the Bible only within the last ten years. Before then I had seen photographs of my great grandmother, but I did not know who she was as a person.
This letter has given me a precious window into her life, her character, and her values.
While our own future is not determined by the lives of our forebears, I think that it matters what kind of people they were, what they believed in, and how they lived.
That is why Ancestry.com and other genealogy sites are experiencing such a growth in popularity.
As I have reflected on Annie and Reggie, it has provoked me to think what I will be leaving behind for the generations that follow me.
What will there be that my great grandchildren can look at to help them understand who I was? Will they be able to tell what really mattered to me from my saved tweets, Facebook posts, and yellowing birthday cards? I am currently considering how I can leave them something more profound than that.
Perhaps I will start a Legacy Journal. Not a diary as such, rather a book containing my thoughts, prayers, interests, fears, hopes, values, opinions, and loves.
Maybe my great grandchildren will want to know how I felt during the Covid- 19 crisis.
Was I afraid, or did my faith in God sustain me? Did I struggle, or was I OK? Who did I help, or was I only able to help myself? Did I always keep to the Covid rules, and, if I did, why? Of course, that journal does not need to be in writing.
I could create a video journal, in which my descendants may hear me describe, in person, what my life was like. One far-off day, Covid-19 will be a chapter in a school textbook on world history.
Maybe my descendants will be asked if they have any direct family history that they know of from those days.
I am going to work hard to ensure that my own descendants have something substantial that will allow them to really know me, in the same way that this precious letter lets me into the faith-filled world of Annie Jones.