I've been reminded to seek my roots. An elderly great-aunt called me. She's over ninety and is seeking family to share her stories of those passed on. Though we've never met, we both felt the connection. We're family. It was amazing to hear of a great-grandfather whose wife was a mail-order bride, and the great-uncle who was a bootlegger and was found dead on the prairie from a bullet through his head.
These tales connect me to family, but they are also a key to who I am. I have the opportunity to learn from my progenitor's mistakes and not repeat them. Their struggles become mine. Their losses pull at my heart. Visualizing the great-grandmother who bore thirteen children on the dirt floor of a cabin, and buried two sets of twins in hard prarie sod puts my own difficulties into perspective. There's strength in my bones because I know about her.
And the Scottish ancestor who fought for freedom and was executed, his head set on the Edinburgh bridge as a warning to other rebels, answers the question of where my own fierce love of freedom sprouted from. It's part of who I am.
In two weeks, I leave to visit my parents in California. They aren't well and everyday is a gift. I'll be reminded that I look like my dad's side of the family as my dad regales me with the story of how his father sparred with the famous boxer, Jack Dempsey. And my dad will share the tale of how a cougar cornered him when he was five-years-old in the wilds of Wyoming. Uncovering who we are through family can be uncomfortable. It's not all pretty, but it is worth it. I know that somewhere inside of me lies strength, courage, and tenacity. I may not have tapped those gifts fully, but they're there. I know.
My ancestors prove it.
If you have a chance to attend a family reunion, please take it. Talk to the older relatives and bless yourself with tales of the past.
The stories that shed light on who you are down to your core are worth noting. Write them down. Share them with your children and relatives.
Pull from the best of yourself. The roots are good.