Stories are such a big part of our lives. From those childhood fairy tales told to us before we could read, to the adventures of Tom Sawyer, Little Women, and Alice in Wonderland when we could reach for our book of choice. Stories allow us to experience what isn’t contained in our world. I have always loved to travel to destinations unknown through a good book, the kind of page turner you can’t set down, the kind that keeps you glued to it well past bedtime. There’s something special about the connections we forge with the characters who were once complete strangers to us on page one. As much as I enjoy stories of fictional characters in imaginary worlds, lately I also long for the family stories shared by my parents and grandparents.
Those stories about the moment they met each other or how they fell in love have allowed me a glimpse into how our family came to be. Tales of their joys and their struggles highlighted their passion and their perseverance. Characteristics that run through my veins because I am their bloodline.
We are not alone. We are privileged to carry in our blood and bone the wisdom of those who have gone before us. We carry their lives, even in the face of their deaths. In each of us there survive the lives of those who gave us life. In our children, and in our brainchildren, our own lives go forward. Faced with the loss of a human love, I turn to the divine love within me which can accept that loss, embrace that loss, and carry forward the beloved whom I feel to be beyond reach. God is in me, and I am in God. All that ever was, still is. We are a divine energy, a divine life. In our dying, we live again. In our living, we die again. There is no loss which is not a gain carried forward. In my moments of greatest sorrow, I am touched by the joy of having loved. In my times of greatest loss, I am still loved. Love is not lost through loss. It is found more fully. I cherish the love my loss has helped me find.Julia Cameron, Prayers To The Great Creator
I not only cherish those who came before me, but more importantly the stories they created, the beginnings they left behind for us to continue writing chapter after chapter. As a child, I sat mesmerized as my aunts and uncles described the sacrifices they made for freedom. A freedom they longed for not merely for themselves, but for their children and their grandchildren…us. To eight-year-old me, they sounded like the bravest warriors of my children’s books, forging ahead with the armor of a thousand prayers. When they told stories of dressing up and attending dances in their suits and pretty dresses, I spun around the living room imagining I was them circling the dance floor to the beat of a silent band just as I pretended to be a princess the first time I read The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Through the years, the protagonists of my favorite reads have taken a back seat to those of my own history.
My grandparents, my dad’s parents, raised eleven children on the small island of Cuba at a time when communism wasn’t something they ever imagined could make it to their shores. They lived a life far from the one Cubans endure these days. It was one of many large family gatherings, a comfortable home, food in abundance, and hopes and dreams that still seemed possible. Each of those children added pages to the book that is our family story. My other grandparents, my mom’s parents, raised an only child on that same island. Their life looked a bit different but was just as plentiful. My mom was raised with a little ocean water coursing through her veins as she experienced the island life on the beaches of Varadero. They owned a small grocery store and never experienced hunger until the government stripped them of their own business. What a love story my parents’ story is! Right up there with Jayne Eyre’s Pride and Prejudice.
It is my story too and will be my children’s story and my grandchildren’s story to be carried on for generations to come as each of the true-life characters in our family story adds to our story. We live on in those who’ve left us. Our children will live on in us just the same. And truth be told these words will live on as well as a testament of our once upon a time, an ending we cannot see, and all the many beautiful chapters in between; but only if we learn our history and share it freely with our children whose bloodline continues our story.