They are everywhere. If I’ve seen one on this adventure, I have seen a thousand of the old buildings that have long ago died of their own type of cancer. If they spoke, what kind of story would they tell? Whose lives have they seen? What joys and sorrows have come through their doors? What were the storms they survived? These are just some of the questions that go through my mind every time I see one of these old relic’s sitting by the roadside. I’ve taken a few pictures only if I manage to get stopped. Hundreds of them however are only etched in my memory. Some are churches, some are old barns and some are old homes and many are business’s that long ago quit operating. I am in awe of they’re unique beauty. The stories they could tell are probably endless. For me they sit like a rare cancer patient waiting for renovation and revival but like many us they will slowly decay and eventually fade away.
I also have had an eye on old cemeteries while riding the back roads of our country. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of cemeteries in the eastern parts of our country that are much like the old buildings. You can tell the really old ones. Headstones that are 200 or 300 years old in some cases that have long since had the names worn off by weather and only a faint sign of a date. Many have gravestones that are leaning over or broken by whatever means. Each stone marks a human that walked this earth. What was their story? Everyone has one. I’ll have one. What will your story be?
This past Saturday I had the chance to visit a cemetery in Preston County West Virginia. I have been studying my ancestry roots in this county for many years now but never had the chance to see where they lived and where they died. The cemetery held many of my relatives that were long ago forgotten souls. As I strolled through and saw a great grand father here or a great grandmother there I wondered what their life was like. One of the individuals was a great great grandfather by the name of Joseph N. Miller. He was born in December of 1809 and died in February of 1902. He had 14 children and was still fathering kids until the 1860’s about the time Lincoln was shot. I think about his life. He lived nearly the entire 19th century. What did he see? How did he get the news of the day? How many hot showers do you suppose he had in his 92 years in the 19th century? Do you suppose the government took care of him in his old age? Life back then was probably a bit simpler in some ways but much harder in others. He lived 92 years and I’ll struggle to carve out two thirds of that even with all of our modern wizardry in healthcare and things that are suppose to make my life better and longer. I wish I knew his story but I don’t know much and I’ll keep wondering, just like with all the other headstones names. Just like an old building still standing waiting for a story to tell.
Yesterday I had an interview for a Morgantown West Virginia newspaper. The lady doing the story was a bit of a historian for Preston County and she wrote human interest stories. She asked questions about my family roots in the county and then many more questions about my cancer and my ride for awareness. One of her last questions was what I wanted people to get out of this story. I told her very simply “to give the message of hope” and to “never quit no matter what the odds”. If all you could physically do was to pick up a pencil, then you need to write your story. I’m writing mine as I’m Ridin On and there is a lot more to write for sure. I don’t want to be the old sagging building on the side of the road with people wondering what my story was. I’ll write my story as I go, and when it’s time to go it will be done for me but perhaps not done for someone else. I believe it is human nature to have a self worth and a purpose in life just like the building that was built for a purpose but now sits like a rare cancer patient in a waiting room. Don’t be afraid to write your history and leave your mark. You are worth far more than a headstone or an old building that will be long forgotten in time.
As you can tell by a lot of my writing I love history. I love people and people have stories. Stories are history and history should not be forgotten. Make your history, write your story and keep Ridin On.