When Allan Johnson asked his dying father what he would like to have done with his ashes, his father told him that it made no difference at all. That answer left Johnson with a lot of questions and was the starting point for a powerful journey.
On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Johnson about his father, journey and new memoir Not From Here. Johnson bought maps for South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, looking for his ancestral roots.
"It was as close as I had ever gotten to places where my family's history had played out," Johnson says. "I had repeated experiences of being deeply moved and also disappointed."
Johnson has both Norwegian and English lineage, and in his memoir he explores what it means to belong to a place whose history includes the genocide of Native Americans.
"For me to look to my lineage for some sense of who I am, to look at the relationship between my great-grandparents and the land that they settled, I have to realize that I'm also looking at land that has a history. And it's a terrible history in terms of what was done to make that land available to my great-grandparents."
Nebbe also talks with Mercedes Bern-Klug, director of the University of Iowa's Aging Studies Program, who shares advice on how family members can discuss and handle end of life plans, including memorials for loved ones.