Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Meeting Abraham

Orr's engraving of Abraham, a well-known Black Seminole Leader. 

The Black Seminoles is a term used by modern historians for the descendants of free blacks and some runaway slaves who escaped from coastal South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations into the Spanish Florida wilderness beginning as early as the late 17th century. By the early 19th century, they had often formed communities near the Seminole Indians.

Together, the two groups formed a multi-ethnic and bi-racial alliance. Today, Black Seminole descendants still live in Florida, rural communities in Oklahoma and Texas, and in the Bahamas and Northern Mexico.

Abraham was a Black Seminole Leader in the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). The Indians called him "Souanaffe Tustenukke," a title indicating membership in the highest of the three ranks of war leaders.

Abraham served as an interpreter for Micanopy (chief of the Seminole Nation during the Second Seminole War) in 1826 when a delegation of Seminole Chiefs visited Washington D.C.


I met Abraham today. He came to the little museum where The Colonel and I volunteer. He came with his wife and grandson in tow.

Abraham was played by Ralph Smith, a Black Seminole and his real-life wife, Marcela, played his Seminole wife. Smith is part Maskoki Creek Indian (known as Seminoles). He was born in Illinois and his wife is a native of Mexico City. They brought some beautiful Seminole clothing and put it on display. I loved the colors and patterns!

Mr. and Mrs. Smith were very informative and entertaining. The Smith's grandson was very well behaved for a 9-month-old. He napped during part of the presentation. 

When he was awake he sat quietly on his grandma's lap.

I liked the authentic clothing the Smith's wore.

I love when history comes alive like it did when I met Abraham, his wife and grandson.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Indiana's Calling Me, Bringing Back Sweet Memories

The Hoosier State, The 19th State, Land of the Indians, The Crossroads of America, A Flyover State...whatever you know it by, Indiana is the birthplace of The Colonel and me.

We were back there in August for my dad's funeral and the day following the funeral we decided to do a bit of driving around the land of our childhoods.

The Colonel wanted to go back to the town where he grew up, visit the old neighborhood and drive by his old house. His old house was virtually the same; the trees were much larger and the yard seemed smaller than he remembered. As we drove around Bowman Drive, he pointed out the neighbor's house where he was bitten by a dog when he was 4-1/2. He had to have a series of rabies shots...five of his stomach. He got ice cream after each shot. I couldn't image, without shuddering, what it was like for him or his mother to have to go through all of that.

The town had changed too. It had more businesses and different fast food restaurants.

We visited the graves of some of The Colonel's relatives (on his mother's side) and placed flowers there. We wanted to place flowers on the graves of the relatives on his father's side too but they were not buried in the same town. We drove to two more towns to place the other flowers.

The Colonel has been gathering his family's genealogical information for over 25 years. Some of his past relatives lived in a small town on the White River located in east central Indiana. The Colonel and I visit that small is very small. Here is an old bridge that spans the river.

Not far from this little town is another small town where the Levi Coffin House (1839) is located.

Levi Coffin was a Quaker businessman who was an abolitionist. He was nicknamed the "President of the Underground Railroad" and his house, the "Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad" because of the over 2,000 escaped slaves that passed through his house on their way to Canada.

The Colonel and I were not able to go inside the house because it was closed by the time we arrived into town (too bad, maybe next time we are in Indiana).

We saw that the highest point in Indiana was not too far from the Coffin House as we looked on the map. We still had plenty of time before we lost daylight, so we decided to visit Hoosier Hill.

We began to see a few (very few) signs for Indiana's highest point. These signs were along pretty, country roads that were surrounded by corn fields; the kinds of roads that The Colonel and I rode our bikes on as children.

Driving along these peaceful roads helped to ease the frustration of having to backtrack now and then (remember the signage was minimal. At one point we finally had to pull over and ask a woman in her yard where Hoosier Hill was).

Finally, we found Hoosier Hill.

The marker for the highest point was nestled within the wooded area behind the sign.

There was a picnic table and a bricked mailbox on the site near the marker stone. The mailbox had a guestbook inside; we left our John Hancocks behind.

There was a cornfield across from the entrance to the highest point. It reminded The Colonel and me of the cornfields of our youth; the sight, the smell, the sound of the wind in the stalks. He de-tasseled corn one summer and I picked and shucked untold bushels of corn over the years that fed my family (there were ten of us).

Here are some of the other sights we enjoyed, as we leisurely made our way along the country roads, on our way back to my little sister's house in the capital city.

The Colonel and I had planned on doing a little more sightseeing the next day but Mother Nature had other plans for us. Hurricane Isaac was on a possible collision course with our part of Florida. We had to get home and make our house and yard hurricane proof.

Hurricane Isaac skirted our area (thank God) and all we got was some wind and rain.

It was good to be back in the 27th State, The Sunshine State, Florida, our home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Abe: From Beginning to End

I like, no, love visiting historical (and interesting) places as those of you who regularly read my blog can attest to.

So, when The Colonel asked me if I wanted to visit and take a tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery or see the birthplace and a boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln on our trip back home from Indiana to Florida, after my dad's funeral, there could be only one answer to his question.

I'll take Abe over Jack for $800 Alex.

Abraham Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky on February 12, 1809. The little, one-room, log cabin he was born in was located on the 300-acre Sinking Spring Farm.

The spring that gave the farm its name is still there. The Colonel and I walked down the steps approaching the spring.

It was much cooler, almost like an air conditioner was running, the closer you got to the spring. It felt lovely, as it was hot and humid in Hodgenville that day.

I liked seeing the spring where our beloved 16th President of the United States got his first drinks of cool water.

The Lincoln National Birthplace Memorial (built in 1909) houses a symbolic log cabin that is seated upon the original site of the Lincoln cabin. The cabin is symbolic because the Lincoln cabin is no longer in existence (dismantled sometime before 1865). It is smaller than the Lincoln cabin was; it had to be built smaller (12 x 17) to fit inside the memorial building. The Lincoln cabin would have looked like the symbolic cabin but larger (16 x 18).

The Colonel and I walked the 56 granite steps (one step for each year of Lincoln's life) up to the memorial building.

We saw the corner stone of the memorial that was placed by President Theodore Roosevelt on February 12, 1909 on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. The memorial building was designed by John Russell Pope who also designed the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The inside of the memorial building was nice and cool. The one-room, log cabin nearly filled the entire building. The gray flooring behind the chained off area marks the original size of the Lincoln cabin.

I was in historical heaven. I wanted so much to be able to go inside the cabin but standing very near the place where Abraham Lincoln drew his first breath filled me with such bliss. That alone would have to suffice.

Abraham Lincoln lived at Sinking Spring Farm until he was about 2 1/2 years old.

In 1811 the Lincoln's moved to a farm on Knob Creek, about 10 miles to the northeast. Guess where we headed next?

The Lincolns lived on the Knob Creek farm until 1816 and Abraham's first childhood recollections are from this boyhood home.

This is the log cabin on the Knob Creek farm. It is the Gollaher family cabin and it was built in 1800. The Gollahers were friends and neighbors of the Lincolns and lived in this cabin on a nearby farm. The cabin was moved to Knob Creek from its original location much later and refurbished. The Lincoln's cabin would have been very much like the Gollaher's.

In his 1860 campaign autobiography, Abraham Lincoln wrote, "I was born February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My earliest recollections, however is of the Knob Creek place."

Lincoln told of events from his boyhood years spent in the beautiful farm valley. Some memories stood out more than others like the time he recalled planting pumpkin seeds in the fields only to see them washed away by a flash flood. He said, "One time the rain from the hills came down and washed corn and pumpkin seeds clear off the field."

He also recalled the time he fell into Knob Creek and nearly died. The water was high because of recent rains. He and his good friend Austin Gollaher were hunting for wild partridge. Seven-year-old Abe wanted to cross the swollen creek on a log footbridge. He lost his footing and fell into the creek. He could not swim and began to thrash around. Austin looked around and found a long sycamore limb and held it out for Abe to grab hold, but Abe nearly drowned before Austin could pull him to safety. The boys promised to keep this experience a secret to avoid a spanking from their parents. Years later Austin told the story many times. 

Above, you see my feet at the water's edge of Knob Creek. The water was quite a bit lower (nearly non-existent) than it was on the day Abe Lincoln nearly drowned in 1816. Again, I was in historical heaven. I was traipsing in and alongside the same creek Abe Lincoln did as a child.

I had just seen and experienced the birthplace and Kentucky boyhood home of young Abe Lincoln: his beginning. I saw and experienced the place of his ending too but it appears that I had gone about the chronology of Abe's life, backasswards.

In October 1986 The Colonel and I were married and we spent our honeymoon in Washington, D.C. We did many of the things tourist do while they are in D.C. (we also had the most delicious Kung Pao Chicken by which standard I still hold all others up to and have yet to find one as delicious).

We visited Ford's Theater and saw the Presidential Box where President and Mrs. Lincoln were sitting when Lincoln was shot.

On the evening of April 14, 1865 the Lincoln's were enjoying the play, Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater. Lincoln's bodyguard, John Parker, left the theater during intermission to join Lincoln's coachman for drinks at the Star Saloon next door. President Lincoln was now unguarded.

At around 10:13 pm, John Wilkes Booth snuck up behind President Lincoln, aimed at the back of his head and fired at point-blank range, mortally wounding the President.

An Army surgeon, Dr. Charles Leale was sitting nearby at the theater and began to immediately assist the President. Abraham Lincoln was unresponsive, barely breathing and with no detectable pulse.

The Dr. having determined that Lincoln was shot in the head and not stabbed in the shoulder as previously thought, made an attempt to clear the blood clot, after which the President began to breathe more naturally.

The dying President was carried across the street to the Petersen House.

The Colonel and I retraced the footsteps of those carrying the President that night in 1865. We went to the Petersen House too. We entered the room that President Lincoln was taken to.

We stood next to the bed that Lincoln was laid upon and saw the bloodstained pillow his head rested on as he lay dying.

President Abraham Lincoln was in a coma for nine hours before he took his last breath and died at 7:22 am on April 15, 1865.

I had been where President Lincoln breathed his first and last breaths; his beginning and his end.

"Now he belongs to the ages." - Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, April 15, 1865

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Perfect Planning, Perfect Timing

When I went back to Indiana in June for a family meeting, I volunteered to help pre-plan my Dad and Mom's final arrangements. Little did I know that Dad would be gone from us two months later.

While I was in Indiana, I spoke with my parents and asked them what kind of funeral and burial they wished to have. They both wanted: a Latin funeral mass at Holy Rosary Church, to be buried in a simple, monastic, hand-made casket (made by the monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana) and to be buried in Our Lady of Peace, a catholic cemetery.

I returned home to Florida with this information and told The Colonel that we had a job to do. He was eager to help me with the pre-planning. The Colonel is never one to procrastinate, so we started letting our "fingers do the walking" on the Internet the next day.

We searched for funeral homes near my parent's home. We visited the websites for the Abbey Caskets and the catholic cemetery.

There were two funeral homes near my parent's home and we chose the one that would help us accomplish everything on Mom and Dad's wish list.

Jerry at the funeral home and Kelsey at the cemetery were a joy to work with. They made planning via emails and phone calls a breeze.

Jerry discussed what funeral packages were available and their pricing which made it easy to choose one that my parents would be happy with.

The Colonel and I used Google Earth to see what Our Lady of Peace Cemetery looked like. Kelsey sent us a map of the cemetery that showed us which lots were available. We cross referenced the map and the Google Earth images to help us decide on a plot for my parents.

We chose a plot with a shade tree that was near a concrete pathway. We based our choice on the plot's beauty and the ease future visitors would have in walking to the graveside, especially in snow (there was parking close by too). We also took into account that there were empty plots still available near Mom and Dad's plot in case any of my brothers or sisters wished to be buried near our parents.

The Colonel designed the headstone with tweaks from myself and other family members. The headstone should be in place sometime in December or January.

July 30th was the final pre-planning email The Colonel and I received. My dad began home hospice care on August 9th and passed away on the 17th.

When I flew to my parent's house on August 14th, I flew alone. The Colonel had to stay behind to take Spud to college. Each day we were apart, I called to let him know how my dad was doing. My dad passed away on the day The Colonel was driving Spud up to Jacksonville, so when I told him, he continued north after dropping Spud off at college. He spent the night outside of Atlanta and then continued onto Indiana the next morning. He arrived at my parent's house around 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 19th.

Dad's viewing was the next evening at the funeral home and his funeral would be the following day. The Colonel and I would be able to see how all of our pre-planning work would come together.

My parent's house was full of family members getting ready for Dad's viewing. There were some of my sisters there as well as nieces, nephews and great-nephews. All of that movement and noise helped keep the sadness of the day at bay. Everyone looked lovely as we piled into three vehicles and made our way to the funeral home.

As The Colonel and I stepped into the funeral home we were met by Jerry. It was good to finally put a face to the phone calls and emails. When I met him it felt like we had been friends forever.

The viewing time was set for 4 p.m.-8 p.m. We, being family, had to be there an hour prior. When I heard how long we would have to be at the funeral home I was a little worried. Would that be too long for my mom? Would the time drag on and be oppressive? My worries were groundless. The staff at the funeral home was excellent and accommodating. The viewing room was beautiful and calming. There were many comfortable chairs for family and visitors. The funeral home created a  video that played the entire time of the viewing. The video was made from 50 pictures of  Dad that we had supplied. Many visitors commented on how nice the video was. The atmosphere was wake-like, not depressed or dark.

The signatures from the guestbook showed that roughly 400 people attended Dad's viewing throughout the evening. I saw aunts, uncles, first-cousins and second-cousins from both sides of my family that I had not seen in years. It was good to see old neighbors (and an old neighborhood crush, who was shorter than I remembered and now with much less hair) again. I remembered days of old with past co-workers who were present. I saw and spoke with one of my grade school classmates; she was there with her mother. We were not friends in grade school but it was good to see her and speak with her. My dear friend Kim came; we shared memories and laughs together.

The time at the viewing flew by as the crowds ebbed and flowed.

I was very pleased with Dad's viewing. The Colonel and I had chosen wisely in working with this funeral home (I just wish my choice in new footwear that evening had been as wise.Ouch!).

Even with achy feet I was able to get some shut-eye and I would need it because Dad's funeral was the next morning at 10 a.m. and we had to be up, dressed (I had on more sensible shoes), and out the door by 8:30 a.m. to get to the church on time (isn't there a song in there somewhere?).

It was a beautiful morning for Dad's funeral and Holy Rosary Church was perfect for his Requiem Mass in Latin.

The hearse drew alongside the front of the church.

The Pall-Bearers, who were all grandsons, prepared to carry Dad's casket into the church.

The church bell was ringing, one peal at a time, as the Pall-Bearers carried the casket into the church and as others filed in behind them.

The priest met and stopped the casket in the back of the church. The bell was still ringing as he prayed in Latin over the casket.

When the priest was done praying, a procession of the priest, altar servers and the casket made its way to the front of the church. The procession was followed by family members who then entered the empty pews nearest the altar.

Throughout the Requiem Mass a choir sang Gregorian Chant-like songs. I would close my eyes and feel like I was transported to a medieval king's funeral mass. Hearing the priest pray in Latin added to the effect as did the smell of incense when the priest blessed the casket with incense and holy water.

Dad's funeral mass was a visual and aural feast; it made me appreciate more, the rituals of my faith. It was a beautiful ceremony, a beautiful experience. Thanks go to my youngest brother for helping make it so.

The mass was over and it was time to go to the graveside service at Our Lady of Peace Cemetery. Our long convoy was led by a police escort. I got used to The Colonel driving through red lights. 

My youngest brother played the bagpipes as Dad's casket was placed at the grave site.

The priest, a friend of the family, delivered a beautiful graveside service (again, thanks go to my youngest brother for making this happen).

My Uncle Dave at the casket. He is Dad's twin brother (fraternal).

I think Dad would have been pleased with everything. The Colonel and I were pleased with the fruits of our planning from Florida. My dad's final farewell was beautiful and memorable.

I must give shout-outs to my little sister and youngest brother who were the "Boots on the Ground" for helping carry out what The Colonel and I started from our end. Also, a shout-out to my oldest sister who helped in choosing the holy cards, guest book and casket spray when she and I met with Jerry at the funeral home. Another goes out to my sister-in-law, Lisa, who helped pen Dad's obituary (and suggested we have Qdoba catered in after the funeral and burial. Delicioso!).

Finally, I must give many thank yous to The Colonel for helping me with my dad's (and mom's) funeral plans. Thank you, thank you and thank you! Verily, you are my better half.