The movie 1917 portrays a war fought far before the births of all but centenarians. While some critics (who gain their title honestly) panned the movie, I found it a compelling story about courage, loyalty, and duty, three dying virtues in 21st century America.
But what captured my attention came at the end when the action finished. As the credits rolled, a different kind of notation flashed on the screen. It was a dedication.
Dedicated to Lance Corporal Alfred Mendes, who told us his stories.
Alfred Mendes was the grandfather of Sam Mendes. The younger Mendes directed 1917.
As the words faded into the parade of names, the mention of a gone-grandfather lingered in my memory. What made the memories of an old veteran so powerful?
Two ingredients blend to form lives. One is experience. With every breath, every human being experiences the moments. Sometimes they are beautiful such as marriage or the birth of a child. Others are woeful. Deaths, defeats, and discouragements are the warp and woof of life as much as joy.
Many ignore the second ingredient. It is what rubs off of other people, something called influences. As we live our lives, the residue of friends and family cling to our spirits. They provide perspective to short-sighted youth.
The movie reminded me of a single truth. As you age, tell your story to those who are younger. Talk to your children and grandchildren. Tell them about your birth, your struggles, your loves, your losses. Tell them about war and peace. Remind them they are not on earth for the first time but walk in the footprints of those who have gone before.
I was blessed by seeing the falling-down house in which my father was born in Ben Franklin, TX. In our cedar chest (inherited from my mother) is a faded blue Navy uniform of a Storekeeper 3rd Class. I heard about and met the best man and maid of honor at my parents’ wedding. Through them, I heard of the day they married. Those are more than memories implanted in the dark gray matter between my ears. They are the people who shaped me.
If you are young, listen to the old and their stories. I know we all (notice the first person) repeat ourselves. We keep telling it because you have not “gotten it” yet. Learn. Ask questions. Get curious. For many people, you never get a second chance.
I enjoyed a movie made by a man who listened to the tales his grandfather shared. If you listen, it may never make a movie, but it will make your spirit.