At 7:22:10 a.m., there will be reflection by many on the meaning of the day and hour. Sadly… most others, I suspect, will remain indifferent, except for the instance in which they might happen to run across a newspaper article or something on the internet or t.v., and have that “Ah, that happened today” moment. Others will take no account of it at all. To some, it is nothing more than Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
As for me, on this day, at this hour, as I write this… I wish I was at the Petersen House to reflect. As incredibly strange as it might seem to some, Lincoln AND Lee were THE iconic historical personalities of interest in my youth. I tried to take the best of each man… even if the best was nothing more than legend… using it all as inspiration and guidance for a boy looking at the future, in the man that he might become. Regretfully, I think it might take a while to calculate how the inspiration of the two men made a positive difference, and where I may have fallen short in the shadow of their examples.
That said, this was not actually the first thing that came to my mind this morning, as I looked at various Facebook posts from Ford’s Theater. My thoughts were more about others, at that time, than about my own reflections of that time and the man. Indeed, the first thing that came to mind was of the range of emotions that may have been felt by my ancestors. Those who have followed my blog through the Sesquicentennial know that, during this 150 year anniversary, I have often tried to grasp an understanding (hopefully, one that was more unique) through what they left for me to consider… though, mostly, I tried to do so in the absence of written descriptions… rarely through anything they documented. I’ve had to “read between the lines” of what they did more than in what they wrote.
Confederates, fence-sitters, leave-aloners, Southern Unionists… all my lineal ancestors were Southern… all my people. What range of emotions did they feel when they finally heard the news of Lincoln’s assassination?
Vengeance, fear, uncertainty, sorrow, anger, emptiness, indifference, etc., etc.
As word of Lincoln’s death spread across Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky, which of these might be assigned to each respective ancestor? Despite what some may think, aligning emotions with the category of Southerner is not as “common sense” as some… too many… people may think. Collectively, I believe they felt all of these things. Individually… it’s impossible to tell.
Whether I think about what Lincoln’s death meant to them, or what his life meant to me, in my youth, this day is worth reflection… not only on the meaning of the day itself, but on how the story of that period of time might still impact us and what we think… and how it continues to hold an active spot in discussions. On this day, 150 years ago, Lincoln passed away, but passed into immortality in our collective American memory.