What Would Ebenezer Think?

Written by Laurie Halladay on August 1, 2011

On a warm, sunny summer day in Lowell, Michigan, five-year-old Sydney was enjoying ice cream with a new acquaintance, four-year-old Max. They were seated at the “kids'” table with an array of older children whom they were told were cousins.

What brought them together for this first-time meeting was the memorial service for Max’s great grandfather and Sydney’s great grandfather’s first cousin, Fred.

If you shook the family tree hard enough, Sydney and Max might be fourth or fifth cousins.

If they even thought about it, they were probably just as confused about how they were related to each other as the adults gathered at the adjoining tables were.

Cousin Fred was the last of my mother’s generation of first cousins.

I remember when I was not much older than Max and Sydney, the family would gather in our backyard for the annual Labor Day picnic.

I would be seated at the kids’ table with some of these same adults that now had become strangers to me.

They, too, had children and grandchildren whom I had never met until Fred’s memorial.

Sadly, it occurred to me, that we may never meet again.

But here for one day, the mantle had been passed, and I was the older cousin at the table.

Before gathering to give Cousin Fred a final toast, we had assembled at the little country cemetery where my ancestors were laid to rest.

Big headstones with our family name attested to the fact that we owned several sections of this burial ground.

Over in the back, I found Ebenezer and Carrie, my great grandparents, who had six sons and a daughter.

Max, Sydney, and all of the rest of us were the result of that union in 1867.

Ebenezer served in the 16th Michigan Volunteer Infantry and fought in 38 Civil War battles before coming home to Carrie, his Michigan farm, and a life with her for 50 years.

I had known things about my great grandparents, but visiting the grave site and being in the community where they lived brought them to life for me.

As I stood there, I wondered if Ebenezer and Carrie had noticed the crowd gathered in the cemetery on that Sunday.

If I had had five more minutes with Ebenezer, I would have introduced him to the family that carries on his name and blood lines.

I’d ask him what he thought of us. I am sure the generations that followed would be beyond his imagination.

But, I’m glad we could be there for him to see, and I am sure Carrie would be beaming.