SAECULUM–HOW LONG WILL WE BE REMEMBERED? by Cheryl Pierson

I learned a new word the other day, thanks to a dear friend of mine, Sharon Cunningham. She posted on Facebook about the word, “saeculum”—which was one that I’d never heard of. I didn’t even know there was an actual word for this “event” or “circumstance.”

Saeculum means the period of time from when an event occurred until all people who had an actual memory of the event have died. The example she used was World War I. The saeculum for that war is over.

It can also be applied to people. (Something else I never thought about.) A person’s saeculum doesn’t end until all people who have a clear memory of knowing that person are gone. So even though a person has died, their saeculum will live for another two or three generations!

Isn’t this amazing? And comforting, somehow. Yes, eventually our saeculum will be over, but what amazes me, and comforts me at the same time, is knowing there is a word—an actual TERM—for the idea of this memory of an event or person.

When you think about it, knowing that someone has created a word to define this period of time is important, because it defines it and gives it meaning—not just some nebulous “I remember Mama” type idea that is passed down. It means, I DO REMEMBER MAMA. I remember how Mama used to sing, I remember how Mama used to cook, how her palm felt on my forehead in the night when she came to check on me. I remember “that” look when she was upset with me, and I remember how she cried when she learned her dad, my grandfather, had died.

 

Valentine’s Day 1965, Mom, my sister Karen, me, and my oldest sister, Annette
Nov. 1960–my sisters, Karen and Annette cutting up in the living room
Sept. 1966–my mom and dad together
 Dec. 1965–my mom wearing the hula skirt my sister Annette brought me from Hawaii for Christmas
April 1960–my grandmother (mom’s mother), a not-quite-3-year-old me, and my sister Annette
January 1960–Mom’s 38th birthday

I remember Mama the way I knew her. And when we talk to other members of the family who knew and remembered her, we learn many other facets about her personality and things about her as a person we would never have known otherwise. It’s this way with every person we know!   

But let’s take it one step further: I remember family. My own, of course—two sisters, Mama and Daddy. But what about extended family? Sometimes we tend to just “move on” in our lives and not dwell on memories of long ago because somehow, they don’t seem important to us. But now that there is a word that defines us in relationship to those memories, doesn’t it seem a little more important that we remember those long-ago times? Soon, there will be no one to remember, and the saeculum for our entire family will be gone.

A group of my cousins at a family reunion

Oddly enough, I remember what I thought AS A CHILD at family get-togethers—the excitement of seeing my cousins, of taking a trip to visit everyone, of staying up late and having a bit more freedom since I had grandparents at both ends of the small town where both sides of my family had many members living—and I felt special because of that. I was the ONLY ONE of my cousins who had THAT! So we always had somewhere to walk to when they were with me—to one grandparents’ house or the other.

As an adult, I think back on those simpler times and wonder what else was going on in the “adult world”—sisters, brothers, in-laws all gathering with their children and meal preparation for so many people—my mother was the oldest of eleven children!

My mother, El Wanda Stallings Moss, and my aunt (my dad’s sister) JoAnne Moss Jackson

Two unforgettable women!

Everyone tried to come home to Bryan County during Christmas and/or Thanksgiving. Such an exciting time, but for the adults…tiring and maybe stressful? If so, I don’t remember ever seeing that side of anyone.   

 

My mom and dad as newlyweds in 1944–El Wanda Stallings Moss and Frederic Marion Moss–around 22 years old

So, maybe that’s why I think writing is so important. My mom always said she wanted to write down her life story, but “life” kept getting in the way and it never happened. When she ended up with Alzheimer’s, the time for writing down anything was over. Though the written word doesn’t add to a person’s saeculum, it does at least two things for those left behind: It helps preserve the stories and memories the deceased person has talked about before they passed, and it gives future generations a glimpse into their ancestors’ lives, thoughts, beliefs, and dreams.

This is my great-grandmother, “Mammy” (Emma Christi Anna Ligon Stallings)–my mother’s dad’s mother. I never knew her, but I felt like I did from the stories Mom told me about her. She was born not long after the Civil War ended, and regaled my mother with stories of her growing up years. I wish I had listened better when Mom tried to tell me about her!

We die, and eventually are forgotten by the world. Events happen that were, at the time,  life-changing, world- altering, such as wars, rampant disease, and tragedies of other kinds. These, though horrific at the time, will eventually be relegated to the tomes of the historical past…and forgotten…by many. There is nothing to stop it. All saeculums will be over for individual people and for events. And they will all become history.

What we can leave behind for others is our pictures, the written word of who we are and what we believe, and if we have a particular talent or craft, pieces of that—carvings, quilts, beautiful artwork or writings, creations of so many kinds.

A painting my mom did many years ago of an old barn in a snowstorm. Sorry it’s so small! Couldn’t make it bigger without making it blurry.

Our saeculum is fragile, and fleeting. So for 2020, my one and only resolution is to try to keep some kind of journal for my children, or for anyone who might be interested in the future. I want to write about my childhood, just the regular every-day things we did, the heat of the Oklahoma summer nights, the fireflies that lit up those nights until we knew we had to go home or get in trouble! The way the house creaked, and how the attic fan sounded like a freight train as it brought in that blessed cooler air during those same hot summer nights. So many memories of “nothing special”—just the business of living.  I want to write about the way life was then—because it will never be that way again, for better or worse.

My best friend, Jane Carroll, and me, on a fall day in the sandbox. I was about 8, and Jane was a year older. We moved in just down the street from one another during the same week of 1963! Jane is gone now, but I still love her and miss her.

Will anyone give a hoot? Maybe not. But I will know I’ve done what I could do if anyone DOES care. I’m not sure Laura Ingalls Wilder thought anyone would care about her stories—but look at what a glimpse into the past they have provided for so many generations! I’m no Laura Ingalls Wilder. My journals won’t begin to make the impression on the world that hers did. But you never know who might read them and think, “I wish I had known her!” (Even after my saeculum is over!)

Me, at age three.

Do you have anything you would like to leave to future generations to remember you by? This fascinates me!

 

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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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33 thoughts on “SAECULUM–HOW LONG WILL WE BE REMEMBERED? by Cheryl Pierson”

    • Hi Denise! I feel the same way–our books are an extension of ourselves in so many ways–I see myself and others in the characters I create! (hmmm…that might not always be a good thing!) LOL Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Cheryl, what I have done is to compile a book about my mom and every anecdote I could find about her family and her siblings; the same about my dad’s larger family; and one about my mother-in-law. My mil asked me to prepare one about her so her grandchildren would have it to pass down. Then, when they saw it, her nieces and nephews and brother wanted one so we had them reprinted. My mil and mother were in the same Sunday School class so that meant I had to do one about my mom and her family. My dad had asked me to do one of his family, but his was harder to track down. I wanted lots of anecdotes and photos–not just dates–and my dad’s family broke apart shortly after his mom died. He and his younger brother went to live with his oldest brother so they could attend school. Those older brothers who didn’t want to go to school had to go to work and boarded with this relative or that to work. His sister married. I had a hard time tracing everyone because after his oldest brother died, the others didn’t keep in touch. But my brother and I found descendants of each and lots of photos. Now, those anecdotes and photos are in book form and can be passed down through the family. I enjoyed my mom’s especially because she told me stories she’d never told me before. We took a trip back to Tennessee to find where she’d been born (When she was six and her father died, she left for Oklahoma). We met with a cousin who was interested in the family. That trip alone is a good memory. I urge you to record everything you can remember and get it into a permanent form.

    • Caroline! What a lot of love and work you put in to those memory books. Those are truly works of art! My mom was the one who remembered everything from her growing up years, and I believe it was because she felt responsible to know and remember it all, and also because she loved family more than anyone I’ve ever known. I’ve been saying now for years I wanted to join Ancestry . com and I have still not done it. Maybe that will be a Valentine’s gift to ME. FROM ME! LOL I have stuff written on yellow legal pads here and there and little snippets of notes, etc. What I need to do is round it all up and put it in some coherent form so it can be passed down. My oldest sister is in a nursing home now and has been for 12 years, and my middle sister can remember a lot of things that I can’t because she is 10 years older than I am. So I need to go down there and we need to just sit and talk and I need to WRITE. Thank you for being such an inspiration. What you have done is WONDERFUL.

    • Ah, Jerri, you don’t know who might remember you and for what small kindness you did for them! Thank you for coming by!

      • That’s right CHERYL. Jerri is my sweet cousin and she’s always doing so many great things for other. She helps the volunteer Fire Department in her local community and many other organizations. She’s one wonderful Lady.
        I’m so proud she’s my cousin. Love her dearly.

        • See, Jerri? We just don’t know who will remember us and what the reason might be! I love that thought, don’t you?

    • Jerri- You have already left your footprint, you are one of the most gracious and loving givers of compassion I know. I love you dearly my sweet cousin.

    • Kim, it’s strange to think that of all the people we know, we do not know who will remember us for what we did at one time or another. I think of the people I have known and the small things I remember about them–they probably never knew they’d done that particular thing that I would remember.

  2. Wow what an amazing article. To your question I’d have to think about that. Thank you for sharing. Very interesting.

    • Thank you, Tonya! I don’t know why this concept still just blows me away to think about. Thanks to my friend Sharon Cunningham for bringing it to my attention by a simple post on FB–now that’s one of the things I will always remember about her! LOL

  3. Isn’t it terrible how we should have written down the stories we were told by our elders and didn’t??? I’ve heard this all my life and I still didn’t/haven’t gotten it done.

    I need to write down a better timeline of my life and a better record of the development of my MS story just in case anyone in my family ends up with MS too. My girls do not want children so I may not have future generations directly descended from me that end up with MS but it is always possible that one of my siblings could have descendants that do. It is hard to say since they do not know exactly how, why or what causes MS.

    I hope your having a great 2020 and continue to do so. I loved your blog. I had never heard this term before either.

    • Stephanie, I imagine every generation gets to a certain age and wishes they had ‘written it down’–don’t you? I don’t know if it’s because we are faced with out own mortality or what, but as a youngster, I remember just being tired of hearing about “when I was growing up” and now, I would give anything to sit and hear those stories again! I don’t know if my kids will ever have children of their own, but no matter what, I feel a need to “get it down” for the generations that went BEFORE, if nothing else.

      2020 has been good to us so far! Hope you’re have a good year, too. I’m so glad you stopped by today, Stephanie!

  4. I enjoyed hearing about and seeing your memories. I honestly can’t think of anything that future generations would remember me by. None of my family is close and I don’t have children. Maybe I’ll be thought of as that crazy cat lady aunt or something.

    • Janine, you know I think what fascinates me about this is that it’s not just confined to family memories–it can be memories that ANYONE has of you. So weird to think that the last person who might remember us is the homeless lady we gave a dollar to in the parking lot. We just don’t know what impressions we leave others with. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

  5. When my mom passed away ten years ago, we found a box of letters my parents had written back and forth during their courtship and WWII. Hundreds of letters. I read each one depicting the joy of young love, committing their lives to serving God, and then the letters my dad wrote of war. I was stunned. We put one letter in a memory box with dad’s American flag. I kept some of the love letters. And, I have not shared them because I felt they were between two people. I was thankful to learn to much about their lives.

    • Kathy, I have a crate upstairs of stuff like what you mentioned–correspondence between my mom and dad when they were very young and in love and I’ve read a few of those letters, but I will never ever share them. I don’t think my dad would care but I think my mom would be mortified. It makes you think about your own letters and diaries and so on…I think I need to clean house. LOL But it’s so poignant and gives you such insight that you would never have had before, too.

  6. I really have nothing to leave behind. My older sister use to tell a lot of stories but she passed this past year and I can’t remember all the stories.I have only one son so maybe he will remember some of the things from life.

    • Quilt Lady, we need to write down what we CAN remember. I can’t remember all the stories my mom told either, but I remember some of it, and I think that’s better than nothing, right? So this is one of my very few New Year’s resolutions–to try to write down what I can remember. And when I talk to my sister, I’m going to try to write down what SHE can remember and make a collection of sorts, even if it’s small. I love Caroline’s projects she did in her comment above.

  7. I, too, am saddened by what we didn’t get recorded from my grandparents and those who had all the stories. My mom’s side does have stories written down in an old book that someone typed all out and printed for anyone who wanted them. They were her great uncles tales of growing up on a farm way back in beginning of 1900. Those are so fascinating to read! I say we all should write down stories no matter what they are. Someone out there will want to read them!

    • Yes, Susan, I agree! We don’t know WHO might be interested to know about our lives, and it doesn’t have to be our families! I am going to try to do better this year about organizing what I have and writing down new things I haven’t compiled yet!

  8. Oh gosh, my friend, I’ve never heard of the word, so I’m happy you shared. I’m a believer you never stop learning and as a writer, of course, I love new words. Your memories brought back so many of mine. I think we don’t stop to think about some of the best parts of our lives because we’re so busy now days. This makes me want to take a few minutes before bed, just to think back to the things I’ve put in the back of my mind about growing up and my wonderful family. Thank you for a beautiful blog full of love and memories. Big hugs from Texas to Oklahoma and in between.

    • I agree, Phyliss. We are so busy. It’s not like generations past–they were busy, too,but without all the electronics and so on that were distractions. Sitting and talking with one another was a big part of their lives–and remembering! That’s why the memories of loved ones and events were “bigger” to them in their generations, I believe. We need to bring that back! A big hug right back atcha! XOXO So glad you stopped by today!

  9. I hope my nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews will remember how much I love them. I have “things” I want to leave them with, like some jewelry, and other things. Mainly, I’d like them to remember that I loved the Lord and that I want them to know Him, too.

    • Trudy, I believe that love is remembered forever by those you’ve touched in your life. Yes, things are nice to have, but time spent together and the love you shared in doing that, whether it was reading together, baking cookies, whatever–that’s what’s important!

  10. Cheryl, I’ve thought a lot about this subject and have tried to write journals but I always end up quitting. I’ve done some genealogy work that might prove helpful to anyone who is interested in our lines. Other than that and my books, I have no idea what to leave. Or if anyone will even care.

    • Hi Linda! Well, that’s just it, isn’t it? We don’t now if anyone will care, so we leave it behind “just in case”–but the physical, actual MEMORIES someone has of you, when the last person dies that had contact with you, or memories of you, your saeculum is over…so leaving writing and memoirs and so on are the only things we CAN leave so others will remember us later on. That’s hard to wrap my mind around, even though it’s something we KNOW on the surface, when we think about that last person who remembers us, who had any kind of contact with us, dying–and our saeculum being OVER, it’s very strange to think about, isn’t it? Love you, girl. Your books are going to be a wonderful legacy, Linda!

  11. Mine has always been pictures, to keep the memories alive at that time . My kids have always since they were young would say “ here comes mom with the camera” sometimes they’d run and I took pictures anyway!! Today they’re older, my parents are gone but I have the pictures to remember our loved ones . They love looking through them and laugh at the memories. I hope the pictures are passed through the generations for as long as possible!

    • Rose Ann, my mom and dad were the picture takers in our extended family, and I remember how when the pictures would be sent back in the mail, Mom would stop whatever she was doing and sit down and look through them. She would always share–send some to her parents and her brothers and sisters. My dad’s hobby was developing pictures for a while, but his job was so demanding he didn’t keep it up for long. He always had hopes of getting back to it, but he never did. When he died, he still had all his equipment. That was really sad to me. He had packed up that dream of developing, enlarging, and just tinkering in general with the pictures he took, and never “got back to it” before he died. :(((( Anyhow, another funny memory of my mom was how she put all our picture albums by the back door in the built-in bookcases. She told all three of us girls, “If the house ever catches on fire, be sure you grab an armload of the picture albums on your way out the door!” LOL Pictures mean so much!

  12. Thank you for a fascinating post. It is really a shame that life has gotten so busy with so many distractions (internet, TV, etc) that people so seldom take the time to journal. There are so many little things that happen every day that we forget that would be nice to recall later on. They would be readymade personal histories for future generations. I think of the wonderful and informative information we have gotten from journals written in the past by both the important (Lewis and Clark) and the every day person.
    A wonderful tradition at national cemeteries is in response to seaculum. There are occasions when the names of the veterans are spoken. We had a ceremony one December when we read off all 16,000 names of the veterans buried in our one cemetery. Every year, we place wreaths on the graves at Christmas time. After the wreath is placed, the person steps back, salutes and sys the person’s name and sometimes when and where the served. As long as their names are spoken, they are remembered, and in a way live on. It is something we could copy in our own families. At the holidays, we could read off the name and relationship of our relatives who have passed on. This list would grow over the years and be a valuable record for future generations. For some of us, the list would be rather long and for others, not so much. If a family is ambitious, they could add a bit of information on the ancestor to the written record of the names. These tidbits would be valuable to future generations who wanted to research the family tree.

    • Patricia, that is such a great idea. I saw something on tv the other night that your comment reminded me of. We were watching Blue Bloods and you know at the end of that show they are always gathered at the Sunday dinner table — well, this particular Sunday it was Mother’s Day, and so the men were all serving the two mothers, (which I thought was really nice!) but also when they said grace they went around the table and spoke memories about the mother/wife/grandmother (Tom Selleck’s wife) who had died years earlier. The grandkids said things like “She taught me it was okay to cry.” Just short and sweet memories. I thought that was really a wonderful tradition.

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