On our trip to Williamsburg we had the opportunity to go to Jamestown one day. I had been given some information by my aunt that we might have had ancestors there. As we walked around the original site I found their names carved into stone, and then I found their stories in a descendant dictionary. This somehow captured me and my love of all things historical. From that point on I wondered had my great, great, great (not sure how many greats) grandmother stood on this spot? Did she know Pocahontas ? Had she walked into this church? Had she worshiped at this altar? If she could talk to me what would she say? These are the things that went through my mind which inspired me to think…what if my great, great, great granddaughter came to my home place sometime in the future. What would she think? What would I want her to know? And so I decided to write her a letter…
Dearest Great, Great, Great Granddaughter,
If you have come to this place, to find your ancestors look no further. I cannot imagine what your life is like and how different from mine it must be. What spectacular things have been invented that I know nothing of? How has civilization changed between my time and yours? While I cannot know what the future holds, I can tell you what life is like here and now. Computers are advancing quickly and technology has changed the way we do everything. I am not sure all of it is for the better, because as much as it has made things more efficient it seems to have increased our dependence on it rather than decrease it. It has caused us to be connected through all our devices, but not connected in person. It is a disturbing trend which has not been studied to determine the effect on us long term. By the time you read this you will know those effects and how they influenced society. It will be taught in your history classes.
Our country is split politically. There are divisions as everyone thinks they know how to run things better than our current leaders. I recently took a trip to Williamsburg and they reenacted scenes from our earliest beginnings in the 1700’s. It was encouraging to find out that in that time of our history they were just as divided as we are. Some wanted to remain loyal to the crown in England and some wanted freedom of our own. They did not agree on much, which gives me hope that maybe one day in the future, the arguments we are having now will have some lasting fruit for your generation. It is my prayer that it will not come to war for that to happen. While I think it unlikely, it is my hope that things have gotten better and that division and discord have been put aside for peace.
As for our family, we are of southern heritage and proud of that fact. We have been in this region of the country as long as I have known my relatives, and a few generations before that. In the south we are famous for our hospitality. We are fond of taking people in and feeding them. We make friends easily and trust probably more than is healthy. We are a church going people and believe that God protects, guides, and loves us immensely. My own personal story has been full of adventure, heartache, and joy…as life should be lived. No one is immune from life’s pain and it is my guess that you will know exactly what I am talking about, because no matter what the future is like, pain is part of it I am sure. That is one thing that connects us despite the centuries between us…the human condition. It is our capacity to both hate passionately and love fiercely that causes us much grief. It seems as if we are our own worst enemy sometimes. No matter what changes have taken place, or will in the future for your own great grands, I know that this much will always be true. And if that is so, then there are some things I need to tell you. Advice you could call it…or maybe wisdom.
- Love with your whole heart. Do not hold back, for it merely makes things harder. Loving with your whole heart opens you up to risk of heartbreak of course, but later on after the heartbreak heals, you will never regret having loved so completely.
- Live fully. It is my motto, which I learned during a battle with cancer. Does cancer still exist in your world? If not, I will tell you it is a horrible disease where your body turns against you. I had it, but they gave me some poison which killed it…so I am a survivor. They say they are close to a cure, and I am hoping it is true and that your generation has never heard of the dreaded illness. However, I must tell you that though the disease tried to kill me, it had the opposite effect. I came to life. All that I had been putting off suddenly became priority. Material things lost their value in my eyes, and relationships became first and foremost. Not a bad lesson to learn when you are given more time to live it out.
- Believe. This one word encompasses so much. Believe in yourself. Yes, it is important that you find a way to love yourself as God loves you. In my generation, so many are lost because they cannot see the good in themselves. Rather than spending their energy on worthy pursuits, they mull about feeling sorry for themselves or wanting someone else to lift them up. Those who are not wallowing in this muck are sometimes too in love with themselves so they are not very kind to others. It is the pendulum swinging from one extreme to another. Believing the good in others is critical to our future. It has been fading as of late. We are quick to point the finger, place the blame, and turn our backs. Kindness is in short supply it seems. My opinion is that lack of belief in God is the reason for the mess we have gotten ourselves into. It seems to me belief in a kind and loving God would help us to love ourselves…because he does…and it would help us to love others…because he does. I guess we have lost this focus and I pray that your generation has found it again.
- It is okay to be a strong woman. Our family is full of strong women. I spent a good deal of my life trying not to be one, only to find it was deep within me and I should have never tried to deny it. I think it goes back to those who came here to this new world in search of a better life and had to endure so much hardship. Weak women did not last long in those times. I think our hearty, independent stock was formed in those early days and has been passed down since that time…to mine, and now to yours. Embrace your strength it will see you through much of what life throws at you. You will become steadfast and that is a wonderful byproduct of living strong.
- Be humble. I know this seems a contradiction from the strength I just told you to embrace. Trust me, it is not. Strength comes from humility. Realizing that you are never through learning or growing is a characteristic which will serve you well. Every day is a lesson as long as you do not think you are above instruction. Teachers are everywhere you are…nature, children, animals, friends, enemies, family…all of these instruct those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. If we all knew that we could learn from one another there would be more kindness in our world. I hope your generation is kind to one another. It is one of the most underrated traits we have.
- Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to admit you make them! Knowing you are not perfect is a key to this one. It is okay to fail…it means you tried. It is okay to realize you are wrong about something and change your mind. That is what makes us wise when we are older.
- Breathe. Simple enough. To live you have to breathe. I mean more than just taking oxygen into your lungs. I mean, taking in life. Sit by a fire. Listen to a story. Take a hike. Smell a flower. Read a book. (Do you still have books?) Have dinner with a friend. Take time out from the worry and busyness around you (I know you still have those) to soak in moments where you can just breathe.
- Make note of beauty. Beauty comes in many forms in our world. I bet it does in yours too. Every person is beautiful. You are beautiful, even if you do not believe it. Look for the beauty around you because it is always there. When you are breathing it is the perfect time to SEE beauty.
- Pray. Worship. I fully believe that our world is experiencing much division, hatred, and evil because this one bit of wisdom has been neglected. God is love. He oozes it. He cannot NOT love. So it only makes sense to me that talking to him and adoring him will bring me love as I give mine to him. That intimate, two-way, relationship with the creator of the universe cannot be replaced with any other thing. If you do not know of this love, search high and low until you find it. It is life. All the other can fade away if you have this one thing. Our world has lost it…or forgotten it. I pray that yours has found it again and embraced this invisible secret relationship in which all these other things reside.
I guess maybe you noticed I wrote this letter to a granddaughter rather than a grandson. It is not that I do not think these things apply to boys, it is just that I think the girls might have a harder time believing some of them. In my day women are more free than they have ever been, yet, they still struggle to do some of these things. Being oppressed for so long requires new thought patterns to develop. Maybe this letter can be a part of that process for you. At the same time, feel free to share this letter with your brothers, because wisdom is wisdom and it nourishes anyone who will listen to it.
My dear, I tried to make this shorter…but I think that summing up hundreds of years in three pages is pretty impressive, don’t you? It is my desire for you to walk among the places I have walked and to SEE the lessons I have learned so that you can pass them along to your own offspring. Our lineage is a strong one. I hereby pass the baton to you. (Do you even know that phrase? If not, look it up.) It is your heritage to pour out for the generations after yours. Live it well.
Great, Great, Great Grandmother