It's March , 2021 and I realize we are a year into the Covid-Era, and sadly, there doesn't really seem to be an end in sight. There is hope...there is promise...but there is also continued lockdown, isolation, devastation and fear. Its a first for so many of us to experience, although not a first for Mother Earth.
I look at this picture of my first meeting with my paternal Grandparents and am reminded that they too went through this in their time. Granny would have been about seventeen years old, Grandpa more like twelve. They found a way to navigate a pandemic that wiped out more than 50-million people in a period that lasted from February 1918 through to April of 1920. They survived it without any of the technology, tools, or means of connection that we are privileged to have today. They were strong, hearty, resilient people that went on to live long, purpose-driven lives. Growing up in the same yard as them on the farm, and spending countless hours with them, I never once heard that period mentioned. It was an event in their lives, not something that defined their remaining decades. They moved on from it, as we will, and laid the foundation of the life that I am so blessed to have today. I am grateful for their love and lineage daily.
In this year of lockdowns and isolation, I have made it a mission to finally sort through the packing tubs full of pictures, albums, and memories that are a part of my heritage. I've been doing a myriad of other wonderful things as well. Writing lots of great music, both alone and with amazing partners. Publishing the book that I've co-written with my partner Mark McGregor. Doing whatever can be done to maintain health, wellness, sanity, and connections during this time. Like everyone else...waiting for the end of this and the return of a semblance of something more familiar. Maybe most of all, doing a lot of reflecting on the journey I've had, the life I am so blessed with, and my own hopes for the years left ahead.
That sorting of memories and history baffles me sometimes though, and so many nights I hit the sack admonishing myself for all the time wasted sorting, scanning, uploading to Ancestry. I ask myself why? Why do I bother? Because you see, with Shane's death, I have no lineage really. I won't have descendants of my own bloodline who will be working to piece together their own story generations down the road from now. Why do I care, and why does it matter at all? Why not just load up the containers and drop them on my sister's doorstep, because she does have a branch on the family tree that will continue. Most nights, as these thoughts circle, I convince myself that the next day I will pack it all away and pass it on and get on to more productive things. But, the next day I do not.
Last night, after another day of scanning and sorting, as I was settling in for the night, those questions arose again. But this time, they came with answers that satisfy my heart and make me want to keep doing what I'm doing. The answer lies in these pictures, the beginning of my story, the beginning of my connection to my own ancestors.
My Grandfather, Allan James Dickson, was the family memory keeper for his generation. He loved and appreciated the sacrifices and journeys of those that had laid the groundwork for the life he lived and loved. He was passionate about keeping their stories alive because, at the end of days, when we depart these vessels we navigate this life experience in, all that is left is our love and our story. It was just a part of who he was, and he willingly and lovingly shared what he knew with those that would listen. Through having had the incredible opportunity to be raised in the same yard, and the blessing of having him in my life until his accidental passing when I was thirty, I've come to realize how deeply that part of his legacy became part of mine.
Over the course of those many years, Grandpa entrusted me with the family stories and his family albums. Some of the pictures date back over six generations. Generations of people who each toiled with their hands, trusting their hearts, fighting for survival so that they could leave something for the generations that would follow. Grandpa painstakingly researched and recorded the story that is our unique DNA. I realize now that he passed that legacy and responsibility on to me. On those days when I tell myself that this is stupid and will really mean nothing when I am dead and gone, his voice comes to me and whispers that it is important. I trust and believe him.
What occurred to me last night was that our bloodline has become very small on my Dad's Dad's side. I am one of five of his grandchildren, and of the five of us, only two have offspring that may carry on what our ancestors worked to create. I know that I can and will work to leave a legacy of my own, hopefully it will be a positive one through the lives I touch and the work I do. But as far as the storyline that I've been entrusted with as one of the memory keepers, I also realize that I will be the last chapter in their story if I don't somehow keep it alive.
Maybe that it's just this strange time we are navigating, when each of us is feeling this lack of connection and meaning. Maybe it's because in the midst of the pandemic I was one of the ones born in 1960 who turned 60. The clock keeps ticking, time keeps passing, my time on earth is shrinking hourly, so maybe it's fear. Fear that so many of us have when we ask will we be remembered? Will our lives have mattered? Will our stories and wisdom and messages die with us? I don't know, and maybe the answer really doesn't matter. Maybe it's just that we need to ask the questions to keep moving forward and making our mark in this wrinkle in time we call life.
It came to me that in honor of Grandpa, this is important work. I live the most wonderful life, which was built on the foundation laid by their hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. The foundation of the legacy they left. I have the time, the means, and the methods in this incredible world that we currently inhabit to share that information in ways Grandpa could never, ever have imagined would become possible. I can write about him here, and maybe you'll stumble upon him. I can continue to celebrate with my songs and videos, so others can learn and maybe be reminded of the gift of certain people in their own life stories. Maybe someone somewhere will do a DNA test that links them to our tree one way or another, and the time I dedicate to sharing what he handed down to me will be somewhere out there in cyberspace where they can find it and piece together their own historical story.
Maybe it's like the belief shared about 'Dia de los Muertos', The Day of the Dead, in the Disney film CoCo, where the Spirits of the deceased yearn for someone to say their name. That belief that we die twice, once when we pass and again when our name is spoken for the last time, and our existence is extinguished. Or maybe it's all just hooey that I tell myself as I try and decide whether all this information and knowledge is an honor or a burden.
I do believe that, for me, taking the time to know and appreciate those that came before me, help me to better appreciate all the blessings I have. That was part of the belief that was instilled in me in those hours and hours spent sitting with Grandpa in his little house across the yard, pouring through his pictures with him, listening to his stories. Embracing our history. Even at sixty years old, they are some of my very, fondest memories.
So with that, I've decided I'll keep uploading to Ancestry, sharing what I have in my own possession, doing what I can so that their names are not just etchings on granite by working to fill in the DASH with pictures and memories. And trusting, that somewhere on the other side of the veil that separates those of us here from those that have gone before, they are smiling, knowing that their names were said one more time, and they are remembered and appreciated for all that they gave to allow me to live this magnificent story that is my own life.
It takes time and energy to become who we truly are! In life, so many things can get in the way of our figuring that out..but the time comes in each of our lives where we need to be able to do that if we're going to live happy fulfilling lives that are authentic reflections of our best selves. These are just things I've learned along the way. I hope that they might help you in your own journey into being Truly You!