Posts Tagged ‘Lehigh River’

992-221-jpegThere is an unmarked grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira that contains the remains of  my great-grandmother, Nellie Myers.  She died in May of 1933 in Allentown, PA.

I always think of her as Nellie Tobin because,  when trying to find any info on her, her maiden name was the only name that brought anything at all.  Which was practically nothing.  Only a listing or two from her family in some Elmira City Directories from the 1870’s and 1880’s.

My aunt Norma is the only member of our family with any memory of her and that was when she was a young child so there is little known of her except for the circumstances of her death.  A few days after my father was born in Allentown, his grandmother, Nellie, went to the market with his sister, Betty.  Nellie sent Betty into a store and when Betty returned Nellie was gone.  It was discovered she had jumped in the Lehigh River from which she was later fished out.  Most of my aunt Norma’s memory has to do with the funeral and the bloated nature of her body after being shipped back to Elmira several days later.

My family, like many others, is full of folks like Nellie Tobin, family members who are lost in the miasma of memory.  There is little known of them and they are long forgotten.  All that denotes their existence are perhaps a death listing in the archives of an old newspaper and a headstone on their grave, if they’re lucky.  Nellie is only a name on a yellowed index card in the office at Woodlawn Cemetery.

I don’t know why I bring this up today.  Perhaps because Nellie Tobin is, for me, a symbol for the tenuousness of our lives here and how we are all pretty much destined for the anonymity of the collective memory in the future.  There’s a certain sadness in this realization.  To have all the things that  define us as vibrant living beings reduced to a cold line of writing here or there in some archive is a sobering thought, one that makes you reconsider how you live your life.

It’s only a thought.  There’s little one can do but live for today and let that distant future take care of itself.  But for my today, I’ll remember Nellie Tobin and try to imagine her existence.  Maybe she won’t seem so blue…

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