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Living History: Sharing Our Stories

Just back from a fantastic storytelling weekend in Kentucky.

The featured tellers seemed to center on family stories about living in Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Coal mining was the occupation most men had, and the tellers shared stories of the hardships associated with those jobs.

The thing that most fascinated me was the personal relationships these tellers had with their grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and even great-grandparents. They told of mine disasters, of things that knit these people together with other families in the counties of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. They spoke of educational opportunities or lack thereof. They talked of tobacco crops and state fairs and cold winter days.

I was reminded of what David Engleman calls the three deaths: first, when the body ceases to function; second, when the body is consigned to the grave; and third, when your name is spoken for the last time. As we closed the weekend, we paid tribute to a...

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