Connecting to our ancestors deepens our understanding of this life journey, helps us appreciate where we are and let go of what’s not ours to carry
It has been 6 years of “life-ing” without my Dad. I write this on the eve of the anniversary of his passing. It’s hard for me to believe it has already been this long…time passes and stands still, moves forward and stalls. It depends upon the day and which way the wind is blowing. Sometimes I still see something I want to share with him or want to reach out to ask him a question…and then I remember. I recall the day he died in vivid detail and yet it slips from my fingers, out of my grasp and feels a million miles away. Some days I laugh thinking of him, other days my heart aches.
But as a wise friend told me, grief is a form of love — and that helps. My grief is quiet and soft these days. I miss my Dad often, but I also feel him around me. Memories are the energy of the heart floating about, wrapping us in its embrace. It’s why we work so hard to hold on to them and keep them alive.
Each year close to the anniversary of my Dad’s death, Mom and I take a 7-hour round trip car ride to rural Pennsylvania where he is buried in a small cemetery atop a mountain in what was once coal mining country. It’s not a trip derived from a sense of obligation or “shoulds”, instead, it is actually more like a pilgrimage for us. I don’t need to sit amongst graves in order to connect with him. Yet, there beside my father’s grave are those of my paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles…my family, my tribal council. Sacred land.
Something magical happens each time we take that journey. Somehow, the driving time shrinks and never feels like it’s been 7 hours, the weather is always the same: blue skies, sunshine and summer heat despite what we leave behind in New York (like the impending tropical storm Henri this time), and both mom and I feel amazingly invigorated by the visit as opposed to drained. I think it’s Dad’s gift to us. We know that he loves that we come to visit.
As I’ve grown older and particularly in the last few years, I have become so much more aware of the interconnectedness of our family lineage with our own stories.
I remember hearing stories as a kid about my grandparent’s lives, listening only half interested and unable to relate. Of course, how could I relate to the fact that my grandfather was forced to quit school in the 8th grade after his father died to go work in the coal mines to help support his family? How’s that for a reality check? But now as I raise my own son and evaluate my own life journey, this has all taken on such new meaning and significance.
Today we have the luxury of balancing our lives with self-care and passionate pursuits—between green juices, Akashic record readings and yoga classes. But then, it was merely about putting food on the table…at least for my grandfather. I don’t say this to beat myself up, but rather to acknowledge and celebrate how far my own personal lineage has come in so few generations. And of late, it has made me feel immensely grateful to all the people who came before me and forged that path, the one I stood upon that led to here.
Even if you are not close to your family, or you don’t want to be anything like them when you grow up — they played a role in your personal evolution and story. They laid a brick in the foundation of your life.
This last year has been an exciting journey for my family as my son Miles, who is now a senior in college at a business school of a well-known university, has achieved many accomplishments for his young age. Throughout the year I had several conversations with him about how proud his ancestors would be, starting with my Dad, who adored him and would’ve loved every minute of this. Whenever I wished Miles luck, I also prayed to my family to stand behind him as he interviewed or took an exam or waited for a result. I literally saw their hands on his shoulders and asked them to support him as he furthered their entrepreneurial dreams — and I thanked them for all that they did.
Just 3 generations apart and a world of difference between us. My grandfather didn’t get to pursue his desires or education or “find himself” or even fly on a plane — and yet, his granddaughter (me), was literally globetrotting by 16-years old.
I share this all with you because knowing where we’ve come from (even if it was difficult or regrettable or we are disconnected from it) helps us understand how we got here, how we can appreciate the ride and see all that we have accomplished in between. It also can help us uncover areas in our life that need more healing attention — a place where energetic cords may need to be cut, and belief systems that don’t serve us or are not ours to carry, can be laid down.
We are each connected to a rich history of survivors, pioneers and entrepreneurs.
We may not have ever seen those people in that light before, but they are the trailblazers of our stories. My grandmother was also a kickass saleswoman with entrepreneurial blood pulsating through her veins. Alas, she was a “woman” and not taken seriously, especially in the time and place where she grew up and lived.
I lost all of these people when I was too young to grasp the importance of their life journeys. Oh, how I would love to sit with them now — to glean their wisdom, ask them questions, breathe in their experiences. Yes, it is sacred to sit, feel, remember, wonder and design what comes next. I never saw how their story was a part of mine. I never understood that their legacy was something to build upon or shift. But I do now…and I sit in great reverence and gratitude. I thank them for getting me here to this place where I will continue paving a path for those to come after me, my grandchildren and great grandchildren and their children. And I ask myself what I want to leave, how I want to be remembered, what stories do I want them to tell…what will be my legacy. My Best Self of course!
Yes, to grieve is to love…and to remember and appreciate and feel connected. In the stillness of my grief, I am grateful to those who came before me, to feel and for this moment. I’m going to hold onto it and remember it the next time I start complaining about something…aaaah, life.
How do you relate to those who came before you — do you see your ancestors as the trailblazers standing behind you who helped shape the story you are in now? Please share your experience with us in the comments below.