Laughing with the Ancestors

The last time I spoke to my Father.

He talked about his passing, as if he knew.

We talked about the Ancestors – and how when he crossed paths with them “on the other side” that he would link up with them to help me in mapping out the family tree.

And we laughed.

My Great Uncle, talked to me about the Ancestors the last time we spoke – joking that he was gonna tell the Ancestors that he was Shun’s Uncle when he crossed paths with them.

And we laughed.

The last time I spoke to my Grandmother, I sat across from her in the living room like we had so many times over the years – and we talked about our favorite subject, family.

And I referred to my Great Grandmother, her Mother, who passed a couple months after I was born in the mid 1970’s – in the past tense.

My Grandmother leaned forward in the chair and stared at me while my brother sat adjacent to her on the couch.

And she declared:

“What? My Momma ain’t gone!”

This was not the ramblings of a 97 year old woman who had lost her bearings – she knew what she was talking about and we did not “correct” her.

My Grandmother had never lost her way – and I studied her with an adoration that eluded words.

My brother and I listened, while ignoring the hair standing on my neck.

She passed away 2 days after we had that conversation.

One of the observations that I always took note of was – that my Grandmother seldom referred to the Ancestors in the past tense.

My brother and I remembered her declaration – mentioning it on more than one occasion.

My Grandmother is my Muse and Oracle


In early December, I had a session with a professional photographer, roughly a month after my Grandmother’s passing.

We were walking around the historic U Street area in Southwest Washington D.C. looking for locations – in an area that I had only been in only a couple times before – only for us to wander into the African-American Civil War Memorial.

Interestingly enough, we happened upon the Monument while I was in the middle of answering a question about the unique challenges of genealogy research for African Americans.

Over the course of over 5 years, I have had a part in mapping out several segments of the maternal and paternal sides of the family back to the early 1800’s – I had visited this Memorial earlier this year, upon discovering that the names of my 3rd and 4th Great Grandfather’s were inscribed on this Monument – but I hadn’t noticed 3 people serving in the same regiment as my Grandpa Tipton.

Walking the Monument – it is inscribed with the names of 200,000 African American service members.

Three soldiers with the last name of Patterson, my paternal surname (at the time of this writing I am unsure if they are related ) were listed above his name (John Patterson, Robert Patterson and Robert A. Patterson).

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A close up of the Monument – The Patterson’s circled in yellow and my 3rd Great Grandfather, Church Tipton circled in red.

I stood there flummoxed, wondering if there was a connection?

What were the odds of the 2 sides of my family fighting (maternal and paternal) along side each other to affirm their humanity ?

Only for one of their son’s to stumble onto what their sacrifice had given birth to.

At that moment I remembered the words of my Father.

And I laughed.

I’m facing the Ancestors like…

I’m all ears.

Copyright © 2019 ShunPwrites. All Rights Reserved.

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About Shun P. Writes

Author, Amateur Genealogist, Writer, Poet, possessor of 2 cents, blogger and eternal student of life, who harbors a firm belief in his Grandmother's mantra that: "People need to get off of their rump and do something". All while keeping in mind that a cheering section will often get in the way.