"All Soul's Day" (Essay)

More thoughts on connections to the past (originally posted on Facebook), Nov. 2, 2014.

All Souls Day has never been a big milestone for me. But after a week of profound discoveries about my family with my Mom on Ancestry.com, this morning's message "We Remember Them" by our friend Rev. John Manwell at Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun really put so many beautiful thoughts into context for me personally.

I am grateful for the tangible connections with "my people", like the afghan that my Grandma Madeleine made for me when I was 8 that kept us all warm this chilly morning, and the blue drinking glasses that her sister Marjorie used in her kitchen that are now our everyday glassware. But I am also especially grateful for all of my ancestors that I've learned about this week. I've known of several ancestors who fought in the Revolution since I was a kid. Today I now know of some from two families who helped start a town in New Brunswick. I am particularly thinking of all of the relatives who made long and dangerous journeys across the Atlantic from Ireland, Scotland and England including a 6-year old named Hannah who also is my great-great-grandmother. I take a moment for a great grand uncle who fell in the fields of France in WWI and a 3-times great grand uncle who perished on the Titanic.

Perhaps most of all, I realize that without just one of the direct ancestors in my family tree, I wouldn't exist! With a little guestimating, at the time of the Revolution would be about 11 generations ago (~ 22 years per each). 2,048 unique people had to pair up and have a child for me to exist. Or any of us. Some might say that's just how it is, because I am here. But it's hard not to consider the opposing view, of what a miracle it is how that happened.

I guess that's how I choose to greet this All Souls Day, with a toast to my ancestors in remembrance and gratitude, with all their flaws and failings as well as their courage, their luck, resourcefulness in the face of hardship and tragedy. Each of you are why I am here, and I carry a little of you with me. I'd like to think you'd be ok with that.

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