This week’s survey question is about the longevity of different generations of your family. It was inspired by my paternal grandmother. On Friday, December 17, 2010, Marie Laura (Dube) Leclerc will turn 99 years old. As far as I have found, she is the longest-lived member of her family ever, and by a wide margin. Prior to her, the eldest-living member of her family was her maternal great-grandfather, François Rodrigue, who died at the age of 87 in the summer of 1887.
Mémère’s mother (François’ granddaughter), Alphonsine Tondreault, died in 1928 at the age of 52. When I was starting my genealogical research, I talked to mémère about her parents. The conversation went like this:
Me: “How long did your father live after your mother died?”
Mémère: “Oh, he lived for a few years, then he passed away too.”
Me: “Do you remember how long about?”
Mémère: “I’m sorry, I don’t remember.
Knowing that my great-grandmother died in 1928, I started looking for the death of my great-grandfather in that year, moving forward in time. He died in 1965, thirty-seven years after his wife passed away. I then had a conversation with Mémère about the definition of “a few years.”
My grandfather passed away a decade ago. Her last two surviving siblings both died in 1981 — three decades ago. She has outlived all of her siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers- and sisters-in-law, and even three sons-in-law. I think often about how difficult these past ten years must have been for her, as there was no one left with whom she could share memories of the first decades of her life: growing up, getting married, the births of her eldest children.
I’m glad that I asked her many questions while she was still able to remember and answer them. Unfortunately, it is now too late to ask her any more, as her memories are mostly gone. But this weekend my family will gather to celebrate her long life. She has six children, three daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, thirteen grandchildren, nine grandsons- and granddaughters-in-law, eighteen great-grandchildren, three great-grandsons- and granddaughters-in-law, and five great-great-grandchildren. All told, we are fifty-eight descendants and our spouses spread around the globe. I wonder what ages we will reach.
This holiday season especially, take the time to talk to your elderly relatives and get as many stories as you can from them. Enjoy their company, and their stories. One day they will all be just memories for you to pass on to your descendants.
Joyeux anniversaire, Mémère. Je me souviens, et passera sur vos histoires.
Happy Birthday, Mémère. I remember, and will pass on your stories.