It seems like every fall I get the Ancestry bug. Inevitably a free trial offer or message containing new information draws me in and I get completely hooked before the reality and busyness of life kicks me in the rear and I snap out of it. I absolutely love the hunt, the find, and the puzzle of learning about my ancestors. Thinking about the people who have come before me, who have paved the way to my being here in this time and place, strikes my heart with awe and wonder. It affords me a perfect opportunity to step back and marvel at how God‘s design gives us the freedom to live, work, be, and do, and yet His plans and His designs are still carried out. And here I am, no accident of circumstance, but planned by my Creator. He made a space for me in the great big whole of His design and I have a very unique and specific purpose here, as we all do! In 100 years, I will be little more than a square on the giant family tree. Perhaps if you click my profile you will be able to piece together some of the details, but it won’t be until we are in heaven that we will see clearly and understand the fullness of the role each of us has played in history. I think that’s what drives me so much, knowing these relatives were so much more than I can learn from the records we have. And it’s not lost on me that I always seem to find myself immersed in genealogy research in the month of November, a time when we remember the saints already in heaven and pray for the holy souls in purgatory. And of course I do exactly that for the time I spend with each ancestor, and somehow I come away feeling a little more connected.
Last week, I spent some time researching my second great aunt and uncle, Philip and Olive. They had nine children and I immediately wanted to know more about them for obvious reasons. (I have 10!) I soon discovered how much we really did have in common as stories of all that they suffered were revealed. They lost their eighth child at almost one year old. Their seventh child died of breast cancer at age 45. Olive buried her husband just shy of their 50th wedding anniversary. A few years later she lost her 25-year-old grandson in a car accident. In her 90th year, she buried her fourth child in May and her fifth child in October. I can’t begin to imagine the joys and heartaches she endured in her 96 years here, but I know she must have been one tough lady. It’s daunting to think of all that she suffered knowing the suffering that is unseen was far greater than what is now seen in these records. My heart hurt for her as I tried to empathize, sympathize, and pray about all I was discovering. At one point, I wondered to myself how one woman could endure all that. Did she have faith in God Almighty and hope in heaven? How did she cope with losing children and a grandson without her husband by her side?
My thoughts turned to the more recent tragedy of the limo crash here in New York State that killed 20 people, most of them related or friends. Four sisters and their spouses or boyfriends died in that horrific accident. What about the parents of those sisters? How do they go on in the face of losing their children – all of them? When I originally heard the news of the story it rocked me to my core! In the midst of all my prayers for them, I had some moments of begging God to show me how they could go on and find Joy. He reminded me gently of how this goes; the same as is true for me, for those parents, for Olive and Philip. Truth with a capital T! Truth is how and the Truth has a face and a name – Jesus: the Way, the Truth, and the Life. When we are stripped of everything is when we learn that the author, creator, and source of all remains, and we live because of Him! He is the true home we long for, even as we make our way here in this time and place we were made for, with all its joys and sufferings.
When I was a child, the thought of losing my parents scared me and I felt that if anything happened to them surely I would die. When I grew up a bit and got married, the thought of losing my husband terrified me. If he died, surely I would too. When we had children, the thought of losing any of them was enough to make me break out in a cold sweat. Certainly there is no way I could go on without them I thought. But when the very worst happened and Mikey died, I didn’t die. In fact, the surprising truth is that I discovered instead who I live for. When Anna died, this truth was reinforced more. I didn’t die at all (though some days the grief and pain were pretty unbearable), but I learned why I have Hope always.
Even now, the thought of losing another child terrifies me. I don’t know how I would survive it, but I know that I would. With Jesus. Were I to bury them all, the Truth would remain, and in light of that Truth, the affliction is momentary and light. It’s like when you are unexpectedly plunged into darkness. Perhaps someone came along and turned off all the lights without realizing you were in the room. You don’t just stay quiet and accept the darkness, right? Usually the reaction is to wait in expectation of the light. Maybe you call out and then you hope and trust that the light will return because you know it can and will. You wait and strain to find just a flicker or maybe you fumble through the darkness seeking the light on your own. You know you will find it and eventually there will be light, and hope lives.
What a great Joy, in the midst of my tragedies, my momentary darkness, to come to know the Light and Truth of Jesus. I know with certainty that He will carry me through every joy and every tragedy and every moment in between, straight into eternity. He alone is the Hope in any darkness.
I stand now firmly in that Truth, by the power of Christ and His cross, in the light of His glory and resurrection. There is nothing whatsoever to fear.
“ For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:17-18