Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Century of Questions

My Grandmother was still alive when the 1997 blockbuster, "Titanic" hit the big screen. Through tears, she told me why she couldn't bring herself to see the movie. It seems that her mother, my Great-Grandma Brothwell was an acquaintance of one of the band members who played as the ship went down 100 years ago today. For Grandma, even the thought that her mother knew someone on board was too much to bear. It's a bit of a stretch to claim that I have any ties at all to the Titanic, but... there you go.

My Grandfather even teared up (as he was prone to do over just about anything, including episodes of Charlie's Angels) as he recalled how the Titanic was supposed to be "unsinkable." He claimed they unveiled a banner over the side that said God could not sink the ship. I suppose that's probably an urban legend, but the stories persist to this day that the claim was made.

It truly saddened me to read a comment online today from someone who said he was so sick of hearing about the Titanic that he wishes it would sink all over again. How sad it is that we easily dismiss the horrific way that hundreds of people died in those icy waters. What is even worse is the fact that it could have - should have been prevented. But for the sake of first-class passengers and their precious view of the ocean, the White Star Line chose to use a minimum of lifeboats... not nearly enough for the amount of passengers Titanic carried.

There are a lot of questions that will never be answered in this lifetime. What song was the band really playing when the ship went down? Most who heard it agree that it was a lively tune, and most certainly not, "Nearer My God to Thee." Why weren't more passengers from steerage saved, especially the children? Less than 50 percent of 2nd and 3rd class children were rescued, while 100 percent of the first class boys and girls survived. Something's just not right. Just how did my Great-grandmother know the band member? Grandma was from Scotland, so it seems entirely logical. But I've reviewed the passenger list a dozen times. There's wasn't a name on board that I can trace back to my family's lineage. It's another story lost.

I suppose Titanic holds my interest because of the power of story. The heroism of that day, the calmness of some passengers as they waved goodbye to loved ones, and how a different generation accepted in many ways what happened as God's divine providence. I love to hear first-hand accounts of our history. I want to know where I came from. In an odd way, it helps me to determine where I'm going. I think of all the World War Two veterans that we're losing every day. All that history... gone. All those memories wasted if we don't take the time to grab hold of, and cherish every word.

How do we honor the legacy of those who showed such bravery on April 15, 1912? There are no survivors left, no one to pray for; only memories to try to keep alive for another generation. The best we can do is draw on what we have. Talk to Grandpa and Grandma. Drink deeply from their fountain of history. Write it down, record it, preserve it. It's precious!

An observation has often been made about the women who passed up ice cream for desert on the night the ship sank, because they wanted to watch their figures. Again, probably an old urban legend, but it does remind us to live life to the fullest, and enjoy what God has blessed us with.

You never know when or even if your ship will make it to port.