There's Always Been Drama Queens

4:32 PMHeather

We sorted through the boxes of yellowed papers and letters, aged photographs and decades old newspaper clippings as if they were buried treasure. For they are to us--to my sister and me. 

It's our family history...our heritage. All contained in boxes at our grandmother's house. Our charge for the weekend with our precious 90 year old grandmother was to help her organize these photos and memorabilia for future generations. 

That would be us. As the only grandchildren.

And we could not seem to put her mind to rest that we were loving every minute of it and soaking in every piece of history as the treasure we know it is. Our dad has been gone for 25 years. These pages and photos and such are our link to him and the generations before him. And we were thrilled to simply glean all we possibly could from it.

The weekend had been planned for weeks, and in my mind, it loomed as a fun weekend get-away. My sister and I were ashamed to realize that at our ages, we have never taken a road trip together. On top of that, we were going to see our very fun precious Grandmother. 

And it was fun. We laughed over old photos and my sister and I sat spellbound at the stories that the photos prompted from Grandmother. Stories we have never heard about lives that are truly the stuff of an epic novel. Mystery, intrigue and heartaches from plot twists that no Hollywood writer could imagine if they tried. Lost loves and untimely deaths and all the "might have beens."

Seriously, it's a novel that would read like fiction. Except it's not.

What I did not expect from the weekend was the depth of emotional land mines that I encountered. The tears I would shed over losses and relationships that are simply gone. It was much more to process than I had anticipated. Thankfully, my sister and I had a three hour drive home to do just that. To process and discuss and affirm one another.

And while I am still wrapping my brain around it all, there is one initial thing I wish to share today, for all you bloggy friends.

At the beginning of our sorting, we found a funeral notice for one Hallie Francis Baird. She died at age 28 in 1919, and a note on the back of the funeral notice read that the flu had taken her life. Grandmother explained that Hallie was our great aunt--the younger sister of our great grandmother, Sallie Murray. 

H.Doyle and Sallie Murray and five of their children--they ultimately had 9

It struck me as tragic that Hallie would die so young and from something that is now so curable.

But there was a greater tragedy to unfold as we read through faded yellow letters with messy handwriting, little punctuation, poor grammar and bad spelling. These letters that told the rest of the story. 

Letters between Hallie and her sisters and between her nieces and their mother. Letters full of complaints and drama and a good deal of contention.

It read like a soap opera. And yes, we giggled through much of the accusations from Hallie about how long it had been since her sister had written and how her brother-in-law didn't like her. Or letters from her niece Gladys to her mama, Sallie, telling of how Aunt Hallie had given her such a fuss the night before. Gladys even said, "Don't be surprised when you see Aunt Hallie, Mama. She is fat as a hog." There was apparently no love lost between niece and aunt.

(For the record--from the photos we saw, Hallie was NOT fat as a hog. So apparently, mud slinging goes way back).

And yes, it was humorous to hear the drama and gain insight into each of the characters of our family history. It was funny to glean how petty Hallie was and how she and her brother-in-law fought. How their sister, Johnnie, took on a role of peacemaker among them all. Hallie was even thrown out of her sister, Sallie's house by Sallie's husband, Doyle, at one point. This prompted a letter from Hallie to Sallie about how to send her things to her. 

We came to recognize Hallie's handwriting and we knew that any letter from her was sure to be juicy. She had much to complain about, it seemed.

But here's the lesson learned. Here's the thing my mind kept coming back to.

Remember, Hallie died at age 28. In 1919. Knowing that date and that untimely death, I was grieved to realize something. 

The letters were dated from 1907 through 1915. 

Hallie's days were numbered. She had no idea how few years she had left.

And she spent them, it seems, fussing and raising drama and contention with her loved ones. She seemed to instigate problems, focusing on negative things and making demands of those around her. 

With the luxury of perspective, it seems to me that she wasted her time and ultimately, her life, making much of the things that were stealing her joy. 

You see, we all have choices to make. We all have to choose how we treat others and what we do with how they treat us. We have to choose joy...or choose to dwell and live in the muck of drama.

This was all ringing strongly in my mind because I actually have some family relationships that have been broken completely, and I have been unable to change it. I've done all I can do to reconcile and have a relationship. To no avail.

I know I'm not alone. I know there's lots of us with "Hallies" in our lives or dealing with broken and hard relationships. And there are, honestly, many of us who struggle like Hallie. Who struggle with how we are treated and feeling down and desperate about it. 

Here's the thing.

We don't have the luxury of funeral notices. We don't know the date at the end of the "dash" on our headstone. None of us know what tomorrow brings.

And it just makes me wonder. 

Can we just stop and consider Hallie? Can we stop and remember that our lives are precious and our time is fleeting? 

How would our lives seem from the perspective of 100 years from now? How significant would the things that currently bother us be, from that perspective--from a century from today? If our lives were contained in the content of letters read by future generations... how would our choices in regard to relationships stack up? 

Would our great nieces see us as someone who chose grace and made the most of our time?

Or as someone who stirred up and dwelt on drama?

What will we do in light of what we can learn from Hallie?

Will we choose grace? Will we side with others and for others, cheering them on and letting love cover over offenses? Will we remember the depths of the ocean of grace that covers us? And realize that if God shows that much grace to us, then we can do no less for others?  

That doesn't mean becoming doormats. It doesn't mean we can't build good fences and perimeters around hard relationships. In fact, there may be some relationships where we limit or stop interaction. There may be some relationships where a recurring sin or addiction or issue means we simply pray for that person from afar. And we can choose to not receive the hate or the abuse.

We can choose to be different from Hallie. Rather than instigate and perpetuate issues and conflict and drama...we can choose to shut it down. And make the most of the time we have.

Be careful then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 
Ephesians 5:15-16

For all the drama queens you deal with in your life, remember this. Someday, it will be reduced to basically a set of letters that future generations read. And they will know exactly how short your years were. 

Will they be challenged to live their lives well because you chose to make the most of your life?

Or will they find a sad laughter and irony at the way you handled the relationships in your life because you seem so unpleasant and unhappy?

May we learn from dear Hallie Baird. 

Time is fleeting. People are precious. 

Let's bring glory to the one who gave his all for us by loving others well. And by leaving a legacy of pouring into others rather than stirring up trouble.

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