“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.”

– Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64)

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been said that a person who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.

It’s fairly safe to assume, however, that each of us has been guilty of doing just that – wasting time and squandering moments of opportunity. Yes, it’s also true that life is short and the older we get the more we feel it, especially as we get set to observe the ineluctable conclusion to the year that was and turn our attention to the one that looms just before us.

In the blink of an eye, the Christmas season has appeared and quickly vanished into that good night, pretty much like the rest of this year.

Before we know it, once again we will raise our glasses and sing, “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne! For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

Most of us have sung that famous tune before, but I’ll freely admit that when I first heard the song when I was a lad, I never thought about the song’s words. Basically, the song begins with a rhetorical question: Is it acceptable that old times be forgotten?

The answer, basically, is no.

For quite a few years now, I have written quite a bit about the past, particularly about the past in Highland County. I’ve written about those who walked where we walk today, ancestors and forerunners who have been gone for so long.

Over the past month, I’ve penned a series of offerings about the old Gossett family who lived down at Fort Salem near Pricetown in the 1800s and early 1900s. As I was out and about over the past few weeks, I was amazed at and humbled by how many folks stopped to talk to me about that series and the other history pieces I have put together over the years.

I was asked more than twice about how much research goes into such an endeavor and why I endeavor to produce these offerings. In many instances, I honestly have no idea how long it takes to compile research.

In some cases, the research has been ongoing for many moons. Along the way, I’ve had help from historians like Jean Wallis and the late Elsie Johnson Ayres, plus I’ve had assistance from family members, family trees and old newspapers.

As far as the “why” question, it’s the dash – the dash between the dates. When I was researching information on my great-great-grandparents, James Worth and Sarah Ann Gossett, my cousin, Chris Roush, stumbled upon a 34-page compilation of Gossett family history that probably dates back close to half a century.

My great-grandmother, Lavina Gossett Roush, was a big contributor of information to this compilation that most likely was handed out at a Gossett family reunion. One of the pages contained an old poem, “The Dash Between The Dates.” Cousin Chris read the poignant poem at his father’s memorial service earlier this month:

“Memorial Day was over now, all had left and I was alone. And began to read the names and dates, chiseled there on every stone. The dates which showed whether it was mom or dad, or daughter or baby son; the dates were different, but the amount the same – there were two on every one.

“It was then I noticed something, it was but a simple line – it was the dash between the dates, placed there; it stood for time. All at once, it dawned on me, how important that little line; the dates placed there belonged to God, but that line is yours and mine. It’s God who gives this precious life, and God who takes away; but that line between, He gives to us, to do with what we may.

“We know God’s written the first date down of each and every one; and we know those hands will write again, for the last date has to come. We know He’ll write the last date down, and soon, we know, for some; But upon the line between our dates, we hope He’ll write, ‘Well done.’”

Worth and Sarah Gossett, along with all their children, have had both dates chiseled upon those stones in the graveyards. Sadly, as the years roll and time marches forward, it’s my fear that the dashes between the dates will fade into history – for them and for others who have gone before.

As we close, let’s wrap up this offering with the New Year’s tradition of Grandma and Grandpa Gossett. Grandma sang their “New Year’s Song,” and Grandpa fired the shotgun the first thing when they got up on New Year’s Day. This took place on the front porch of their home:

“Awake, awake, my neighbor dear, I wish to you another happy year. The New Year’s now at your door, the old one’s gone and comes no more. The sausages and puddings, they are ripe, just made to suit your appetite. The powder is in the pan, and the guns are in your hands. The smoke it shall descend from door to door, and in a moment it shall roar (BOOM!!)!”

Happy New Year, everyone, and may God bless you.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at roush_steve@msn.com.