What-Was, Now-Is, and What-Will-Come: A Few Thoughts on Ancestors

The ancestors…most people see the ancestors as those that populate their DNA ancestry tree. Not only is this an understandable perspective, it is also an admirable one. Just recently, I started trying to figure out the ancestry lineage of my own. I know of one ancestor that is in my path of the past – Arent Van Hoeck, who – apparently – was born in 1635 or thereabouts. Eventually, he made his way from Holland to the United States, where my family tree thus begins here in North America. My family moves from New York to Virginia to North Carolina into Tennessee then up into Kentucky and the Ohio. But honestly, DNA family is only part of the entire Ancestors equation for me.

Now before I continue, I am no scholar of any sort. I could not tell you the origins of any ceremonial aspect of celebrating the seasons. I could dig a few stories of myths out of books, but none of them do I have committed to memory. I don’t believe that there will ever be a time that I will be a cited source in any academic paper, nor do I rise to that ideal of writing or scholarship. If you wanted to really describe me in that fashion, I am just a blogger. But I do look at connections and patterns.

Recently, like in the past two days, I opened an account at Ancesrty.com so that I could start to trace my heritage. I’ve always had very rough sketches done by family members over who was what and where and when. Thus the reason I know of Arent. But there are so many other connections too. The branching out from other families that married into the Van Hook family lineage. And the families that married into those lineages as well. And so on, and so forth. And eventually the connections between families all over will show. And as those connections begin to arrive into the overall picture, I sincerely believe that we will find that we all connect somewhere, in some fashion, to one another.

Thus, the celebration of the ancestors – spending a moment to see the line of one’s people – back to the beginning – takes a slightly different meaning to me. The words “The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth” are widely attributed to Chief Seattle, but are more likely that of a screenwriter who penned them for a 1972 documentary called “Home”. Regardless of who really made the statement, it rings true – particularly in my view of the Ancestors.

We are all connected together. Our skin color does not define us, it is used as a barrier to separate us from one another. We are human beings. We are connected together as a species, as a people. When we work together to achieve a goal, we provide a strong connection with our environment – provided we insured that the rest of the circles of life are a part of what we set out to accomplish. When we ignore those circles, those connections, we begin to see ourselves apart from our own brothers and sisters on this Earth. The animals, the insects, the plants, the soil, the rocks, the sky…we are all connected to one another in this vast web of Life.

So where do I begin to answer the reverence of my ancestors? Where do I begin to pay homage to those that have gone before, those that have passed beyond the veil? Instead of choosing my DNA or my species – I remember the Past. Even the What-Was from before my remembering. It was from the What-Was that the Now-Is was built upon. And it is from both the What-Was and the Now-Is upon which the What-Will-Come is built upon. We stand on the bones and remains of the Past. And from our bones and remains of the Present, we will build upon for the Future.

My Ancestry Chart is an interesting strand to look over and contemplate upon. But it is only one strand of What-Was. There is so much more to remember when we look upon the ancestors. To remember where we came from, and how the future will be built going forward. Every motion we make, every thought we have – even while reading this, every action we take…sends ripples forward in time. We should be aware of our actions, of our words, our thoughts…for those will shape the future, even in the smallest of details.

We wage wars, as societies and governments, seeking equality or justice for the Now-Is without thoughts of how these battles may shape the What-Will-Come. We don’t look back at What-Was to see the consequences of the very same actions on the Now-Is. Perhaps it is true, the written and oral traditions of History will belong to the victors. But there can not be anything that removes aspects of What-Was. Our Now-IsĀ is built upon it.

Nothing can change the fact that we were here when Now-Is becomes What-Was. Even if the future generations forget us, our web of Life will not. For we will be added to its foundation – our contributions a part of the sum of the whole. No matter how great or small.

First Steps…

This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Currently, I am about 2.5 miles from my parents’ home in Hot Springs Village in Arkansas. About six and a half months ago, my mother passed away after fighting a handful of ailments over three and a half years. For that moment, I was prepared. I had three full years to watch as things went downhill, fully aware of what was happening. About ten days ago, my father suffered a massive coronary event and passed away in the living room. I never saw that coming. I knew his health was getting bad, plus he had just gotten through a surgery for colon cancer in January. I just never expected him to pass away just a few short weeks after that.

So far, I have managed to be the strong, older sibling through this all. I have been calm on the phone each time I have talked with my sister. I smiled at the co-workers who kept providing their condolences, though I wanted to not hear it and just got on with the work that I had to do. Before I left the house this morning, I sat down and told my youngest cat that I had to go away for another handful of days to take care of my “daddy cat”. Yes, I talk to my cat. And yes, I consider that to be perfectly normal and sane behavior. If you don’t – please be courteous enough to keep that to yourself.

However, the finality of the moment has started to creep up on me. Tomorrow morning, I will enter a home that will have been built by my parents for their retirement years – which is now been passed in ownership to me and my younger sister. Tomorrow, I will begin packing up and moving out the possessions that I wish to keep, essentially clawing through my parents’ belongings, looking for what items will be the cornerstone of my memories. And somehow, I have to keep myself from feeling like a grave robber. Yes, this is going to be a really rough time.

There are items I am very much aware that I want. My father’s book collection. Some of his work tools. Pictures. A couple of paintings. The grandfather clock (which is mine according to the Will). I won’t be able to take them all at once – so I will be making a return trip for some of those items, as well as furniture that I want as well. And there is the cleaning of the house that needs to take place. The selling of the car. The eventual selling of the house. But none of those is more important than my trip to the cemetery tomorrow. My father and mother both have their ashes interred there – just not at the moment. The internment facility has only been completed in the last few days. But I will find out when they will be interred, and will be here shortly after.

Remembrance of one’s ancestors… I know this will sound odd, but this has never played all that heavy in my own personal Druidry practices. Until now. And I find it very fitting that I just had my initiation into the Bardic Grade at the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering last week. The prevailing theme was of “new beginnings” — and every beginning is the end of another process. I take my first steps as a formally initiated Bardic student…just as I take my first steps into the world around me without my parents around. New beginnings indeed.