Mark Edward Hall

The Official Website of Author Mark Edward Hall

THE LESSONS OF OUR ANCESTORS

I want to tell you about my grandmother, about how wise she was and how she impacted my life. She died a long time ago, the nineteen seventies, in fact, but even after so many years, she still holds influence over my life. Her name was Luella, and she was my mentor. She was a story teller. She was not a writer. She was a chronicler of life’s triumphs and tragedies through the oral tradition. Nothing made her happier than to ‘catch someone’s ear’, as she liked to call it. She lived with us when I was growing up and she captivated me with her stories and her wisdom.

Let me say this. I believe that our culture—we Americans particularly, and perhaps all of western culture—grossly undervalues the wisdom of those who have come before us. Unlike most eastern and indigenous cultures, we pretty much ignore, even dismiss the old as irrelevant. For obvious reasons we are fixated on youth. They’re young, they’re beautiful, they’re hip. Everything we see in the media, from television to movies to advertisements, tells us that being young is where it’s at and that we should value youth over and above everything else. And I agree that we should value youth. The young are, after all, the future. But in not valuing the wisdom and experience of our elders, we are not only disrespecting them, we are losing something vital from our culture.

I was the only one of the grandchildren who took an interest in what Gram Hall had to say. I don’t know why that connection was so strong. Perhaps it was because she saw something in me and tried harder than she did with the others.

It’s no secret that I’m a dark fiction writer. It’s where my mind seems to go whenever I sit down to write. I can’t help it. That’s the way I’m made and I have no reason to believe it will ever change. However, there is redemption in all of my stories and I owe that to Gram Hall. The main theme of my work is the triumph of good over evil. This is something she taught me as important. She said that even in the most desperate of situations there is always room for hope. I listened and I learned. It is the main theme for The Hero of Elm Street a story I wrote in her honor about a heroic young man and the young woman who loved him.

Gram Hall didn’t tell horror stories or paranormal stories as we know them today. Instead she told ghost stories. She had an insatiable belief in the hereafter. She knew without a doubt that the spirits of the departed walked the earth. They walked in graveyards and in old houses and down country lanes after dark. She was in tune with the dead. To her it wasn’t a frightening thing. On the contrary, it was a way for her to stay connected to those who had passed out of her life. I listened and I was mesmerized.

We were very close for a lot of years, so it came as no surprise when her own life was ebbing from her and she lay in a semi-coma in a hospital bed, that I was the only one of all her visitors she spoke to.

I was twenty-two years old at the time, newly married and had started a family of my own. I’d been busy and hadn’t been to see Gram in several months. No excuse, I know. The news came and I rushed to the hospital. I came quietly into her room and stood over her bed watching her sleep. I’d been told by doctors and family members not to expect much. That it was too late and that she would more than likely just fade away.

But she didn’t fade away. She opened her eyes, smiled at me, and said, “My little Markee, (that’s what she always called me) do you remember the things I taught you?”

I nodded as tears spilled down my cheeks.

“Good. I want you to know that there were reasons for it.”

“I know,” I said.

“Do you?”

“You wanted me to do something with my life,” I said. “It’s why you encouraged me to read and to think and to make my own mind up about things instead of just following blindly.”

“And what are you doing with that knowledge?” she asked.

I lowered my head. “I’m trying to write a novel,” I told her.

“Wonderful,” she said. “I knew you would.”

And I did. It took me years to finally finish that first novel. Then I wrote another and another, and through it all I never lost sight of how important Gram Hall’s influence was on me. If not for her it would probably never have gotten done. I owe her everything.

She died that night but her spirit lives on in me. She’d be happy to know that.

Please, if there’s an elderly person in your life, sit down and talk to them, but mostly just listen. You’ll be amazed at the things you might learn.

Mark Edward Hall

mark@markedwardhall.com

http://www.markedwardhall.com

5 Comments to “THE LESSONS OF OUR ANCESTORS”

  1. Blaze McRob Says:

    Your non-fiction resonates the same as your fiction, Mark. This a great story with so much truth. If only everyone would listen to the words of those with so much life experience.

    Blaze

  2. Mark Says:

    Thanks, Blaze. I totally agree. I think it’s a mistake for our culture to ignore those with so much wisdom. They’re not right about everything and sometimes their ideals are slightly outdated, but they do have much to offer.

  3. Blaze McRob Says:

    So true, Mark. No one has all the answers, but to discount knowledge acquired through experience and observation is totally senseless.

    Blaze

  4. Shilpa Says:

    This was so touching. I come from Indian culture and I can relate to what you say listening to your elders. They indeed come from experience and it is important to move ahead in life. They help us with knowledge of pitfalls that we, as we grow in to youth and out of it can use well to learn wisdom. It is unfortunate that it is changing in Asia too.
    But what a beautiful post. You reminded me why it is important to be humble and most importantly, how in all of us, there is this young child who craves for the soft touch of our very own sweet grand parents who want nothing but for us to grow in to wonderful beings. Looking forward to reading your books.

  5. Mark Says:

    Thank you so much for reading Lessons of our Ancestors, Shilpa. Very nice of you to comment.
    I wish you every success with your writing aspirations.
    If you would like to read a story that’s directly related to this post just click on The Hero of Elm Street above.

    Thanks again,

    Mark

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