Growing up, there were summers, my family would head down South to visit my maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts and cousins. I loved those hot summers, sweltering in the heat and finding relief in the company of family and summer fun with cousins. However, my most poignant memories are of precious time with Granddaddy, Mr. Bill, as others fondly called him, my maternal grandfather.
Granddaddy time was a favorite with all the grandkids; he would take us out to get ice cream, drive us into town in his truck, and drop us two hours early at the airport (I don’t know why, but it just became his thing, our thing); it was always an event filled with laughter and goodbye tears at the end of summer visits. Granddaddy was a quiet, gentle, and wise statesman. His hardworking spirit and innate strength were rooted in his love of God and his family; a foundation that helped shape our family story.
Granddaddy lost his first wife, my maternal grandmother, during childbirth and found himself heartbroken and with three young girls to raise. Now, this was the 1930s in the South, and society didn't believe that a man would have the skills and ability to raise three girls on his own --- it was simply unheard of. People in the community came forward, aunts and cousins, offering to take the children and raise them. Granddaddy would have none of that. True to his character, he decided that the girls would stay with him. He was not going to let them be separated. So, with patience, kindness, love, and the added support from his second wife, Granddaddy raised his girls to be strong, proud, successful Black women.
That imprint of his character is what I see when I look at my family and our history. Granddaddy’s perseverance and care planted the seeds in our family garden that would sprout for generations to come. My family’s tapestry is woven with the same gentle, hardworking, and God-fearing thread that my grandfather passed on to his daughters, my mother being one. That thread – that started with him has strengthened and allowed me to navigate the ebbs and flows of life.
As we age, we all face some form of heartache, disappointment, and devastation caused by the resurgence of trauma. And your reading this is proof that you have overcome adversity.
The beauty of our life journey is that our path is never flat and boring but filled with mountains and valleys – highlights and lowlights that help you remember that things will always change, and it is your response that impacts how you move forward.
When I feel self-doubt or challenged, I remind myself of the roots from which I am formed. We may be a collection of our past experiences, but we are also a composite of all those personalities and nuances who came before us. We can trace our DNA back a thousand years. They dream you into being, with every generation that came to be, you are an embodiment of their strength, determination, and unwavering courage. You are not a mistake or accident, but a purposely created being further growing your family's tree.
My grandfather’s roots run strong in my family and have given us the compassion and love to take on new challenges every day. Because of him, I understood how to be confident, how gentle is strong, and how strength can be quiet. I learned how to live and thrive in a way that honors who I am as a person and doesn't conform to what is easy. In those moments, when I am doubtful, I can see the strength that came before me, and with a foundation like that, how can I not succeed?
Looking back at our family is not always an easy activity to do. I was blessed to know my grandfather and feel his presence. For some, that blessing was not always so visible. It is easy to look at the hurt and trauma that families experience and forget that you have an ancestry beyond painful memories.
Examining the past and estranged family relationships can open up wounds that still need healing. As you try to understand your past, I challenge you to practice self-compassion and love for yourself and your ancestors. Understanding your past can help you make sense of negative behavior, thought patterns, and even what drives you to succeed and how you deal with failure. As our lineage can be the process by which positive values are passed on, it can also transmit ancestral fear and hurts.
When you do that powerful shadow work and shed light on those hidden truths, you are able to identify the light at the end of the tunnel. However, as you work through those truths, emotions and questions arise. Throughout the process give yourself the grace to experience all of the emotions without lingering in the negative. Self-compassion includes mindfulness and self-awareness. Two powerful tools in unlocking the gifts that your ancestors left you.
Remember that you are more than cumulating one set of ancestors as you go on your journey to discover your ancestral blueprint.
Understanding your story, both the positive and negative structures on which your worldview is formed. Knowing our past, we can then decide to carry or change a legacy. If it is a legacy of loss and pain, we have the opportunity to change that history and create a new legacy. We can plant the seeds for future generations. If it is a legacy of growth or someone who started a business and it can be passed down to several generations, we can carry that. I choose to build on the legacy of my grandfather, his values that I am endeavoring to keep alive and embody- his foundation is what I stand on and reminds me that the spirit of GREATER THAN is within.
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