For those of you who may not know, this coming weekend is Remembrance Day Weekend in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In addition to the commemorative reading of the Gettysburg Address by a Lincoln reenactor, there will be a living history parade, the luminary of candles for the fallen, and special events galore.
My father happens to be a major Civil War buff. Growing up, I played in Devil’s Den before it was closed to the public, and learned a little bit more than the average kid about the Civil War, all because my father kept massive tomes about the Blue and the Gray on our bookshelves.
His devotion to researching one of the most horrific battles fought on US soil led him to discover not just one or two, but at least seven known ancestors who fought on both sides of a conflict that pitted brother against brother and even father against son. Oddly enough, though, much of my father’s research specialized in what the women of Gettysburg did before, during, and after the bloody contretemps. And what he learned was that women of that battle were simply amazing. While their men were out killing themselves in droves, the women were doing their utmost to make certain there would be a town of Gettysburg after it was all said and done. They filled in at the makeshift hospitals, some fought to preserve their fields and homes, and most of them found ways to survive in the aftermath.
For those of us who write romance, it is required that we offer up that perfect Happily Ever After. Yet how sobering it is to realize that for an entire generation of women in and around Gettysburg, there was no such thing. The soil of their farms ran fallow with the poisonous decomposition of bodies rotting in the July heat. The water of their wells was unfit to drink, and the only strength left to them lay in what strength they had in their own bodies. Yet somehow they managed, not just to survive, but to live on, and find a happily ever after of their own, even after the deaths of the men they loved.
I like to visit my father on Remembrance Day weekend; I go in costume, and do my best to blend in with the real reenactors. It makes me feel like I’m partaking of history, and helps me to remember that even the bleakest moments can be overcome by perseverance and a determination to make things right.
So this weekend, for those of you who may not be able to attend Remembrance Day, keep it in your minds and hearts. Not just for those fallen, but for those who had to struggle through the aftermath.