They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind.
Native American proverb
On July 4th last year my brother died. Saturday afternoon his ashes were spread into the Atlantic Ocean from a sail boat. The ceremony was conducted by his two children, my niece and nephew, whom I hardly know. They were carrying out my brother's wishes. He was a man of the sea.
Over the years I have lost four grandparents, only one of whom I ever met, both parents, a bunch of aunts and uncles, some of whom I never met, cousins I know nothing about, my sister and eventually my brother. I am the only remaining member of my family.
So now I would seem to be in a state of disconnectedness and anonymity. I definitely fell that way most of the time; more of a vagabond than ever. I have no grandchildren to ask me questions, no birthdays to celebrate, no college graduates to congratulate, no brides and grooms to send good wishes to. I sit and write my journal entry every day hoping it will be read by a few friends and some total strangers, that it will have a meaning for someone, touch someone's life in a positive way. But I only get at most about 20 readers everyday.
But this past Independence Day got me thinking about just how large my family really is. Since I can't have my feet firmly planted in some family environment I have to look around at exactly what it is I am a part of. I think about the wigs, bonnets and coon skin caps of the early settlers of my country and what they went through to make a new nation come alive. Those are my ancestors. There were hard winters in a hostile environment. There was a desperate war, which they won. There was disagreement, rivalry, fist fights in Congress, duals, failures and successes. A country was being hammered out on the anvil of danger with a blacksmith's will to shape it and make it work.
Then the others came, the immigrants, looking for freedom and the right to live up to their potential in a new world, unfettered by a suppressive government. Those are my ancestors. They came, established themselves, learned how to live here and become a part of the new nation, contributing their cultures and it's wisdom to the grand mix.
As the nation grew a new enemy arose that had to be destroyed, the native. But the natives fought back. Those are my ancestors. It seemed that the Native American was the unwelcome immigrant. But eventually the earth turned, the smoke settled on reservations and tribal councils and the native began a slow process of learning about and insisting on his rights, becoming part of a new nation, accepting and being accepted, and now being allowed the dignity to bring his culture and wisdom to the grand mix. I support that process. They are my brothers and sisters.
Ruthless businessmen imported men, women and children from Africa, in chains, and sold them on an open market. Those Africans are my ancestors. They worked the land and made the crops grow. Many of them were horribly treated. But they were humans and they also had rights. My ancestors fought a war over those rights. The war was won. Though there are still struggles, which I also support. The African is now free to vote, get an education, take a respected place in society and hold public office. They are my bothers and sisters.
Almost every day there is a parade of cheerful students from the local elementary school on their way to the local library just down the street. I like to see them passing by and hear their chattering, I think that there go the scientists, artists, doctors, teachers, astronauts of the future, Those are my children.
I have a very large family.
DB - The Vagabond
Thank you for reading this.