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...And Olga Says:

Since my college years, I have been haunted by the final scene of Anton Chekhov's "The Three Sisters" in which the oldest sister, Olga, reflects on the family and all they have endured. Hugging her two sisters she says, "The music is playing so cheerfully, it's so full of high spirits that one wants to stay alive. Oh God, Oh God! The time will come when we will be gone forever, we will be forgotten, our faces, our voices, and even how many of us there were. But our suffering will be transformed into happiness for those who live after us, peace and contentment will cover the earth, and they will remember and bless with kind words all those who live now. My dearest, dearest sisters, our life is still not finished. We will go on living. The music is playing so happily, so cheerfully, that it seems, in just a little time, we will know why we live, and why there is all this suffering… If only we could know! If only we could know!"

Our life is still not finished...powerful. In the mind of a genealogist, there are no truer words to be applied to each and every person on our family tree. The three sisters in the photo above are my great-grandmother and her two sisters, taken around 1915. They each knew their share of suffering and also some pretty great joys in life. It has been my life's mission to give them voices so that their stories may live on and not fall silent. I am thankful for the dozens of photos I have of them throughout the years, and the letters to and from each of them to other family members, and the reminiscences of an older relative who knew them before they died. I wish I had a way to hear them speak--to know how it felt to hug them, to play cards with them, to eat the food they cooked, and to view the world through their eyes.

As technology improves, we have immeasurable opportunities to record our relatives now and preserve the music of their lives. Unfortunately, many of us will go to our graves without taking the time to listen to what older family members have to say. In a world of tweets and texts and instant photos that last for 20 seconds, we have to be diligent in our efforts to document and preserve those special and those ordinary moments that we share.

Remember with joy and bless with kind words, those that have come before you.

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