I think I have likely perplexed you my loved ones by choosing in recent years to celebrate this Christmas Eve and Day in apparent solitude. I will explain. I am far from alone and most comfortable. Being by the telephone (and now at the computer) listening and communicating with the souls “out there” seems the most natural.
I celebrate all those I have spent so many holidays beside. Perhaps it is the agony of observing the processes of determining the obligations we as a nation shall follow in caring for all of our flock that has made me so aware in recent years. Or perhaps it is a wonderful experience I am having following a thread on the Grant County, Wisconsin Rootsweb list. There is a researcher who stands out in his determination to learn about his family roots. A few years a he posted a question about a relative whose remains had been sent to the University of Wisconsin.
I pulled this man’s obituary and death certificate off the web. The first is a notice of the November 1930 death of a man then unidentified. “Clad in overalls and an army overcoat, the man about 40 or 50 years old, was found in a manger in the stables where he had evidently gone to sleep. He had curled up in the feed box, his shoes off and overcoat drawn over him. It is believed he died of exposure.”
The coroner’s report states the remains were given over to the Anatomy Department of the Univ. of Wisconsin.
As was the case for all physicians of my time my first patient was a cadaver, a man with no history and no headstone in his future. At the time and off and on since we all wonder but never take the time to find out the history of these martyrs to the better lives of others. Mostly they are the so called “losers” and “failures,” the misbegotten who are no longer connected to family or friends. I place them among other saviours, many whose contribution to humankind comes in their death.
Then here comes a great nephew owning relationship and seeking information relentlessly. I recall my brother David and nephew Greg’s excited call from the graveside of our Rolla Hirst, and their efforts this past summer to find more of the recluse William Clark. If we are to be good shepherds we will know each of our flock.
On one of the weblogs a woman calling herself Selise reminds us; “solidarity means leaving no one behind,” then quotes Eugene Debs: “Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
Yes. This is when it begins to feel like Christmas.