Saturday night was one of those long-drawn -out nights where sleep just eluded me. I don’t have many of those nocturnal episodes much anymore but when I do – it is quite frustrating. I fell asleep at 10 -woke up around midnight and finally crashed again around 5. I didn’t wake up, the next time, until around 10 am Sunday morning-and I was walking around in a semi-daze -off-kilter way all day.
But I did take advantage of the time to listen to some of my favorite songs from the Broadway hit-Hamilton while listening in the darkness! This time around it was the last song “Eliza Hamilton” sings as a final good-bye to her deceased husband Alexander…. that sent my thoughts spiraling out into the dark silence.
Eliza would live fifty years more after her husband’s death-she died at the age of 97. She would become a social activist helping Dolley Madison with her fund-raiding platform to lay the foundation for the Washington Monument.
She threw her life into raising her children and fighting to protect her husband’s legacy through turning over 1000’s of handwritten manuscripts to be preserved in the Library of Congress, as well as, public libraries -like the New York Public Library.
But it wasn’t until she founded an orphanage in New York to help children in need -the city’s first private orphanage for hundreds of children ( Orphan Asylum Society) that she realized she could honor her husband’s memory while helping children who had lives similar to Alexander’s ( he had been orphaned at a tender age in the Caribbean and only got to America to study by a group of benefactors who recognized his intellect and raw talent from a newspaper article he wrote.)
This lead Eliza to promote and support a free school( Hamilton Free School) for parents who couldn’t afford a private education and had no benefactors-like the ones who turned her husband’s life completely around.
*** Today scholarships are still given out here to deserving students to attend Columbia University.
As I listened to ” Eliza” explaining to her deceased husband how she decided to ” tell his story ” to preserve his life and legacy my mind suddenly skipped over to another Disney movie-an animated children’s movie called COCO (2017) .
I discovered this remarkable movie from the backside of a project Rutledge wanted me to participate in after he initially watched it. Mollie called and asked if I could bring a picture of my parents and grandparents to put up in Rutledge’s bedroom.
Curious I asked Mollie what was behind this sudden interest in the family tree-she replied COCO!
The movie is about a little Mexican boy named Miguel who has an amazing adventure on the holiday -The Day of the Dead. .. a holiday to remember the dead. It is while Miguel is allowed into the Land of the Dead for a short visit that he learns a very important lesson -the importance of memory and how we should always tell stories of our family members and the lives they lead when they lived in earth.
Miguel learns that no one really dies or disappears until there is no one left living who can tell their loved one’s story. ” If there is no one left in the living world to remember you -you disappear from this world. ” (Rutledge didn’t want this to happen in our families-thus the wall of memories. )
Eliza was married to Alexander Hamilton for almost a quarter of a century before his death by Aaron Burr. She burned most, but not all, their love letters -her letters to her husband always started off ” My Hamilton” and ended with ” Tenderest Affection.”
They both loved gardening and at the time of Alexander’s death-they had planned to create a large apple orchard. Their dreams of a garden, like no other, touched me. But his last letter to Eliza was written the morning of the ( now) famous duel. . It was only then he confessed to the upcoming duel and he said as a Christian he would not aim at Burr but twelve feet over his head. A bullet found in a high limb cemented the fact he did just that-but obviously it was not reciprocated-Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach. It was an agonizing death until its end the next day.
After giving thought to keeping memories alive after our own departures… I am so thankful the ” children” got me started on the StoryWorth year/long project of sharing my memories, history and ancestral personalities with those left behind. Thanks Mollie for spearheading this long-term but important endeavor!!!
The last question asked me to leave one final message for my grandchildren and great grandchildren… this I am keeping personal except for one final thought….
So until tomorrow… What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone, but what is woven into the lives of others. ( That should be everyone’s legacy.)