Edith, Martha, and Sally in a row

image: property of Martha Dallas

I’ve brought something for you to look at, hold, and pass around [share the two dried boutonniers]. Can someone describe what you have here? [Encourage and repeat anything about the dried, dead flowers and the lace.] While you are passing these around, listen to what I have to say and think about how these are connected to my story, because they are.

This month we’re exploring the theme of family. And families are full of stories! So this morning, I wanted to share a story from my family, a story that came to me when I was a girl. My mother shared it with me when we were looking together at this picture:









This is my mother, Sally, taken on the occasion of her wedding, in 1962. And what she told me as we looked at this picture was that the dress she is wearing here was also worn by her mother, my grandmother, Martha, for whom I am named, in about 1930:









And there’s more. Martha’s mother, Edith, Sally’s grandmother, my great-grandmother had also worn the dress in the very early 1900’s:









So Edith…









… passed the dress on to her daughter, Martha…









… who passed it on to her daughter, Sally…

Edith, Martha, and Sally in a row… and Sally, my mother, wondered out loud as we looked at the picture together, whether I or one of my sisters might one day wear the same dress on the occasion of our wedding.

Well, just over a year ago, my sister, Beezie, became engaged to be married. She had dreamed of one day wearing the dress. Well, the dress had been stored in a dusty attic in a crumbling box and it was now well over 100 years old. Sadly, it was not fit to be worn for a fourth generation. So instead, she wore the petticoats from the dress – petticoats are the cottony layers that go underneath – she wore them with a dress she bought from a wedding dress store. And then she carefully cut strips of lace from the dress into ribbons and had them tied into the corsages and boutonniers and boquets of flowers for her wedding. And so what you are passing around are the boutonniers that I and my partner, Lucy, wore that day this past summer. The lace you have touched is over 100 years old and has now been present in four weddings in my family.

Now what is this story about? It’s about many things, and all sorts of things. But most importantly, it’s a story of mine; a story from my family, and so it tells me something about who I am and how I fit into the world.

So this month, I invite you to share your family’s stories. Tell them, listen to them, and wonder out loud with each other about what your stories tell you about yourself, about who you are.


This story is obviously a very personal one. I include it here to inspire you to mine your life for stories that are special to you and your family. Consider all manner of stories that lift up various feelings and values. Model personal storytelling for your congregation.

Props: In my case, I brought in the boutonniers to pass around. I also turned the photos of my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother into a powerpoint slideshow, which I shared via a digital projector as I told the story. If your story is enriched by visuals, I encourage this means of sharing so that everyone can see.

Note: Recent studies suggest a strong correlation between personal resilience and knowledge of one’s ancestry and family stories. This New York Times article, The Stories that Bind Us, explores this research.

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