This past weekend I enjoyed a wonderful time with 50 of my close and distant relatives. I learned what a 1st cousin once removed compared to a second cousin etc. I found the commonalities of our lives that might be inherited or a trend that is in our lineage. I knew we were Mayflower descendants, but did not realize all the connections and the integrity and strength that those people had during that period. I was very proud to learn that we have a real life Rocket Scientist in our lineage. (Is it a lineage if they are still living?) I value the many things that I learned about our family. Family is important! We all have the family we love to talk about but then there are those we are not so proud of, or if it’s distant enough we can laugh about. But family is family and we must look at all of aspects of our heritage. Hopefully we can learn from the past and go forward to make a stronger legacy through our future generations.
How do you do this? I’m no expert by any means and you know what I find myself struggling with my own advice at times. But here are my opinions about how to go forward.
1. You need to know your past before you can really go forward. Look at the triumphs and tragedies that occurred in your family. How can you learn from that? One example that I saw was in my Great Aunt’s family there were some great sisters. They lived with my Great Grandma and became very close. They were all very connected and spent time together. They still enjoy time together in their late 80’s and 90’s. There were five sisters and three cousins that were extremely close it seems. If you follow their lines it gets interesting. It was very interesting to see the family make-up and break-up in each family. Of my Great Grandma’s children there were eight, three married and never had children, one marriage broke up but got back together, one divorced twice and three married and had children and stayed together till death. There are divorces in the lines, but more in the lines of the ones that divorced or split up for a while. There was a lot more disconnectedness in the divorced families than in those that stayed together. Where there were 1/2 siblings there was an interesting distance. Knowing all of this I want to look and see how I can get back on track with my line. Did my children see a healthy relationship? Did my children get the message that marriage is important? Have I passed my family values down?
2. Respect what you have and learn to live with it. One of the most confusing things about the weekend was figuring out who went with whom. I noticed that several in step families would either identify their step children as theirs or not recognize them at all. That may have been due to the age of the remarriage, I’m not sure. But most valued their step children and enjoyed their grandchildren through them. But it was clear that some of the lineage would stop if there was not blood there. They could not claim to be part of the Mayflower, but they had some significance that they brought to the heritage. There was respect for all parts of our family. We had a variety of artists to rocket scientists to physicians and nurses. A very interesting mix. Everyone seemed to notice there was a nurturing emphasis in most of the careers that were chosen. We also saw a boldness. The Family Crest brought out that Disgrace was worst than Death. Did we have some that brought disgrace. I guess it depends on how you look at it. But the theme for the weekend was to value what we have. The second cousins were able to get acquainted from all parts of the country and vow to get together to keep the lineage going. It was fun.
3. Look forward to your lineage. I know we had the oldest at 96 present and the youngest there was 18 months or if you count it still in mommy’s tummy. What will their future be? What values could they see. I noticed that my cousin emphasized the spiritual component of our heritage. I loved that!! She pointed out how we cannot forget about how we got to this country. We listened to the story of William Bradford and how his diary focused on our religious freedoms. Those values must be passed to our future generations. I want to make sure my children value their heritage and pass that on to their children. We laughed a bit and said we should probably do the begats like in the Bible. But if we were to do that we could see how wonderful our heritage. I have a favorite song by Steve Green that says “May all who come behind us find us faithful”. I want desperately for my children to inherit these good qualities that came from our forefathers and help to change the future of our communities, not just our families.