I never knew my grandfather, he died long before I was born. But I feel like I've known him through the stories my family has told about him. I heard about how, as a young man he ran into a burning barn to save a neighbor's antique cars. As thanks, the neighbor gave him enough money to pay for tuition at a photography school, where he learned his life's trade. Although, I think photography was in him all along and the school just gave him the tools to bring it out. I also remember hearing about his prophetic dreams as a soldier in World War I, how the other soldiers would come to him asking what food they'd be getting next, how he accurately foresaw in a dream his company coming upon a downed hot-air balloon with a box of military medals in it, and how one of his dreams showed a newspaper with the date the war would end: November 11, 1918.
This poem is from his daughter, my aunt (who has also written a memoir), written soon after he died:
Today we buried you at Arlington,
The air yet fresh from mingled dew and sun.
Three miles away men wrangled on the Senate floor,
The early traffic hum grew to a roar,
And somewhere someone slammed an angry door.
But here lay peace.
Would that this peace that lies upon your hill
Be planted in our hearts. Could tears bestill
The faithless fear of never finding you again.
Could we forget the foolish pride of men
And know you hover just beyond our ken
A smile away.
Alice Ann Conger Knisely