A Road Trip and a Lesson on the Value of Photography

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About two months ago, I took a road trip with my mom, my grandma, and my two-year-old. I know, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s not. We left on a Saturday morning for a small town in Southeastern Kansas called Yates Center. It took us two days to get there, but we made it. Yates Center is the small town where my grandmother and my grandfather met. Its the town where my great-grandparents and my uncle are buried. Its the town where I spent a few days almost every summer of my childhood. And this trip may be the last time I see the town for quite some time to come.

For those of you who’ve been following along, you know that my grandfather passed away almost 9.5 years ago, and while we still have my beloved grandmother, old age is quickly catching up with her. I’m not gonna lie; it’s hard to watch this once-strong woman who helped my parents raise me struggle to do simple tasks because of arthritis. I love her, and I will help my mom care for her until she returns to live with our Heavenly Father. It’s hard, though.

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Anyway, the whole point of the trip was to visit our extended family, which I am grateful we were able to do. We reminisced about times gone by, traded stories about more recent events and shared plans for the future. It was an incredible time to spend with family!

Every trip, though, we try to re-visit a different piece of our family’s history. This time, we drove through Ellsworth and Holyrood Kansas- towns I’ve visited before, when I was just a baby. They’re important places in my family history because Holyrood is where my grandfather was born and where my grandparents spent the first few years of their marriage. Ellsworth is the town just up the road where a larger part of the family lived after immigrating from Eastern Europe. Why they settled in what is almost the middle of nowhere, I have yet to discover, but it’s where they lived and died.

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It was incredible to get to visit the cemetery where my great-great-grandparents are buried, and to know that I have their wedding photos. To be able to connect the dots of their lives, and to know that the dash between the dates on their graves meant something. I love that I know what they looked like, and through the stories of my grandmother about her in-laws, what they were like as people.

Our lives are recorded through so many documents- birth and death certificates, census records, deeds of ownership, marriage records, church records, and other legal documents, but none of these record who we are, and what we look like. They only record things we’ve done. That’s why I am so grateful for the art of photography, and the documentation it provides, because it alone fills in the blanks and makes the connection to our ancestors much more tangible.

Why are you grateful for photography? What has it helped you to document or to discover?