Monday, May 3, 2010

Stature of a Tree: Arthur Garfield Ely

I really don't know much about the Ely side of the family, but here is a start. I have a copy of Grandma's brother Jim's eulogy for my Great-Great-Grandpa Arthur Garfield Ely, who died in 1970. Here are some of the things I learned from it.
(Me-->Mom-->Grandma-->Rolland Arthur Ely-->Arthur Garfield Ely)

Arthur was born in 1880 in Nebraska, his parents only recently having moved out of their sod house into a new frame house. Think Little House on the Prairie! Jim says, "Our grandfather had a wonderful mind and an exceptional gift to express himself through writing." He also mentions that there's an autobiography out there somewhere...has anyone posted this online yet?

When Arthur was 29, he married Elizabeth Douglas Fray Chapman. They had 4 girls and two boys. (I'm not sure which ones are in the picture..., but don't they look like a happy family? My ggrandpa Ely looks SO much like both of his parents in this picture...). The family moved to Oregon, Washington, and then to Sun River, Montana. Now here is a bit that Jim shared from Arthur's autobiography.
"Our last child, Baby Ruth, was born in 1928 [Arthur would have been 48 and Eliz. 44]. She died in infancy. elizabeth had to have a gallstone operation operation in December 1928, her third major operation. After returning home, complications resulted in a return to the hospital where they could do nothing for her in her weakened condition and she passed away on January 17, 1929."

Arthur was lonesome for the next few years but
"Finally securing a fine cook and housekeeper who suited me in every way, we became fond of each other. We did not want to be separated and decided to make it a life partnership. We were married August 1, 1932, taking a trip to Glacier Park and the Flathead valley."

Here is a poem by Arthur that Jim read at the funeral.

A seedling roots in windswept rocks

And all of nature's forces mocks;
The crest of timberline its stage,

Defying all the storms that rage;

Tho bruised and gnarled by constant strife
Tenaciously it clings to life

And struggling on incessantly

Achieves the stature of a tree.

I wonder how much of himself he put into that poem, but I'm sure he didn't write those words lightly.
Jim also included, "We have never considered grandfather as a religious man. Yet, his ponderings of life and death and immortality make us realize that he was a man who knew his Creator. Of immortality he wrote:
Why, on this earth, did God place man?
What was the purpose? What was the plan?
His highest creation, his ultimate goal,

His own living image, the home of a soul.

A question more tense, one still more profound;

When we depart hence for where are we bound?

Does the soul perish too when the physical man

Succumbs to life's burdens? Can that be the plan?

Or does it live on, continue to grow?
Is its tenure in man a mere embryo

Of the soul that's to be when the plan is complete

And at last it appears at the great mercy seat?

Though science can offer no proof of the soul

Are we to accept the grave as our goal?

Is the final reward for our ceaseless toil
A perishable box entombed in the soil?

Has infinite mercy, compassion and grace

Created the soul for so brief a space?

Is the soul not a thing from science apart

Contained and concealed in the mind and the heart?

Will the same unseen hand which the secret withholds

Reward all the faithful when the mystery unfolds?

If the soul's not immortal, then what is the source
Of this world-wide belief with so vital a force?

The beauty and also the irony of this poem is that Arthur's son, my Great Grandpa Rolland Ely, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) as a young adult. I don't know how much they would have discussed their differing beliefs, but it looks like from this poem that Arthur was looking for the answers for so many questions that are answered truly and completely in the gospel of Jesus Christ that his son, and so many descendants, including myself, have wholeheartedly embraced! How many grandsons and great-grandsons/granddaughters have served missions for the church and would have gladly, tearfully answered his questions? As most of his generation, Arthur saw a lot of "early" death in his life. I think he would have been happy to know that the spirit does continue, will be restored to its perfect body, and that our "embryo" souls will continue to grow and learn after this life, as eternal families, to become like our Heavenly Father.

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