Keeping Your Family Roots Intact Long After You're Gone

Thursday, January 5, 2023

 To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, 
a tree without a root. 
— Chinese Proverb

The land behind our house is part of a protected wetland, deemed forever wild. On either side of a stream there is a large portion of land that provides us with a view that changes dramatically with the seasons. At times we can barely see beyond our property line because the vegetation is so dense, but when autumn comes and the leaves drop, our view expands dramatically. In that view, I am able to see this fallen tree, roots still intact, some several years after it fell. On most days I look at the massive root base which sits like a giant roadblock in an otherwise open field, but the other day when I noticed it for the first time since the view opened up again, a different sentiment came to mind.

I'm not sure exactly when this tree fell, at least five years ago or more.  Although some parts of the top edges seem to be missing, it fascinates me that for the most part, it remains pretty intact, even after all this time.  From my perspective looking out the window, it's hard to be sure just how large the root base is (although the tree itself was quite tall and reaches far from its original spot to close to the edge of our property), so I sent John out, muck boots and all, to get a photo close-up.  I snapped a shot using my cell phone and was shocked to see by comparison (he's 5'8") just how large the root base actually is.

 If you've been reading my blogs for a minute, you know that my brain works in analogies and this was no different.  Almost immediately after noticing the still present, still intact root base, my mind began to churn.  That root base reminded me of family, specifically the strength of a family base.

This analogy perhaps originated from my genealogy research these past few years, along with my obsession with old family photos and the stories written in my Storyworth book.  Family and family history have always been important to me, but more so in the past few years.  When I look at the root base, I see large roots stretching in all directions....those are our early ancestors.  They are the origin of the family, its base.  From that base comes lesser roots, the next generations, followed by smaller roots- generations that follow.   Between the roots dirt is packed in, the roots hold it firmly so that even after years of being exposed to the elements of the seasons, it still remains mostly intact.  And among the roots and dirt, some new life, tiny vegetation takes hold and attempts to grow.  The dirt, for me, represents the health, the glue, of the family.

I think families are like this tree root.  Our ancestors are the basis for the family; they begin the whole process. How that process goes depends on many factors. For a tree, it depends on the soil conditions, the weather, wildlife....all of which can enhance it's growth or terminate it. Families are the same. They can be strong and sturdy or they can be weak and vulnerable. Unlike the trees in the forest who are at the mercy of the conditions that can't be controlled, families can be nurtured and preserved. When I look at this tree base I see a long lineage of a family, a family that has survived the generations, nurtured by love and support into a strong family unit. It's base (its history) remains long after it's uprooted, and long after its founding family are gone.

I think it's up to us, as keepers of our families and their history, to do what we can to make our base strong.  We need to intentionally work to keep our family stories alive through the generations.  We need to make sure the young people in the family know the people who came before them.  We need to make sure the young people in our family know the elders who are still with us and build those relationships.  We need to tell stories and share photos and celebrate our roots.   We need to honor our family history so that it will be strong and intact long after we're gone. I was fortunate to grow up in a family that valued family and the preservation of family history.  I spent many Sunday afternoons around my family dinner table listening to stories told by grandparents and great aunts and uncles.  I have boxes of family photos and memorabilia.  Those times, those artifacts, those memories are the glue that has kept our family together.  That is the 'dirt' that holds the roots, big and small, together.  It's the stuff that made me value how I got to be who I am today and the people who were here before me as well as those who were my support along the way, just like those tree roots.  I think that solid base is what kept my family strong, even during the storms.  I'm grateful for the people who came before me that were the dirt that held our family roots together.

I want to be like that giant root base, still a giant presence and foundational part of the family that remains long after I'm gone.  Don't you?  

History remembers the celebrated.  Genealogy remembers them all.
-Laurence Overmire

No comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Life As I See It Header

Never Miss A Post - Follow by Email

Sign up here to get the latest blog post delivered to your inbox.
Never miss a post again!