Thanking the Ancestors

November 2, 2018
Today is All Soul's Day. It's not a tradition that I grew up with; it is only in these past few years when I've become my family's "storytender" that it has taken on a deeper meaning to me. A few years ago some dear friends invited us for a wine tasting and it happened to be All Soul's Day, so I thought for fun that we should each share a story of an ancestor, raise a toast in their honor and say their name out loud. It has become a cherished tradition, and tonight we'll do it for the 5th year.

Once again, it comes infused with new layers of emotional significance. We just had a weeklong visit with family we'd not previously met, who are now as cherished to us as any of our lifelong kin. My great-grandparents Andrew McKnight and Margaret Jane Robinson were both Ulster Scots who emigrated to Boston, married and had 8 children. As soon as they could, those kids scattered to the breezes and had little to do with each other. It is now among their grandchildren that a family is stitched back together across the miles and the years, as we discover each other and find loads of common threads.

So this is particularly poignant to me. In my house that night, two of their daughter Margaret's grandchildren met for the first time. Our great-grandfather was a fiddler, and I've often imagined that he must have played some of the same Celtic tunes frequently heard here in the States. His family came from the County Down, on the northeast coast of Ireland, and some of them still live around there today. Including the cousins who gifted me with this beautiful guitar during last year's visit, made in the very town - Newtownards - where we all share McKnight ancestry.

And thus, here you go. The great-great granddaughter picks up her fiddle, and plays "The Star of the County Down" for her cousins all newly united, accompanied on the guitar that has become our unofficial "coat of arms" in the 21st century. I feel like a man who has eaten the finest meal, and will not be hungry for days. If truly at this time of year the "veil is thin," as they say, then I hope our ancestors are similarly content being remembered and present at our table.

May your ancestors bless you thus on this All Soul's Day. #ancestories #allsoulsday #samhain #eldiadelosmuertos

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