How many times have you looked into an old album of photographs from a distant past, of ancestors, grand parents, great grand parents, and wondered what they were really like?
Perhaps you've thought about those people from: the age of Abraham Lincoln, from the time of Queen Victoria, of the Revolutionary Wars or perhaps the Wild West. What must they have been like? Were they gunslingers, pirates of the Caribbean, maybe immigrants of deposed royalty or just ordinary people like you and me?
Unfortunately, most of them are now forgotten, their stories lost to the great void of time and most, consigned to that little bottom drawer in a photo album to be brought out and glanced at once a year, if that.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "Glory is fleeting ? obscurity is forever" I think that quote also applies to everyone's life. Life is fleeting ? obscurity is forever
Recently my cousin from Santa Barbara shared her interest in Genealogy with me. I gazed in amazement at her computer where she kept all the names and dates she had discovered of people who were related to us in some way, names that went back to the fifteenth century and before. Each name had two dates, birth - death. But what was most shocking to me was the little dash - the hyphen between the dates of birth - death.
That is a life. A life full like yours and mine, of growth, tears, laughter and heartache. All turned into a little dash. Is your whole life nothing but a dash between two dates? Is that what we become?
But why should we care about our ancestors? They are gone, life is here, so why should we care?. Perhaps we should all care a bit more about each other, after all, we are all connected in some way, and we usually care about people we are connected to, our family, friends, associates. We are also connect with people who are kind to us or we recoil from them when anger is aimed at us, but we are connected to them too, because we always remember them.
But that's today. So why do we have this fascination with ancestors who we never knew, or will know?
The Dance of Life
|To me dancing is the essence of life. Life itself is one big Dance, but then come: the Tango, the Salsa, the Disco. What, you don't like disco?
A few years ago when I was sent around the world shooting documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, every hotel had a disco. You bet I got on those dance floors and disco'd my way around the world. I met so many great people.
Dancing! I invite you to step back in time with me to the world of the roaring twenties. To a seaside town in Northern England called Blackpool, where people gathered in great numbers to frolic at the beach and kick up their heals in those great Victorian ballrooms.
Jimmy & Beaty
Let me tell you about two of the greatest dancers in the world. No, not Fred and Ginger but Jimmy and Beaty. It was nothing for Beaty to dress up in fine lace, silk and pearls to attract the best on the dance floor. She was hot stuff showing off her dancing prowess to the wanting boys. Perhaps it was the dancing or maybe it was her bright blue eyes that seemed to catch their attention so readily. This was the twenties and the ballrooms swirled with elegantly attired bodies, doing the Charleston, the foxtrot and the waltz.
Across the floor was Jimmy moving cheek-to-cheek with his dance partner, dressed in a white tie, tails and shoes shined so clear you could see your face in them.
Beaty and Jimmy never danced so close; in fact, they didn't even know each other until one day when Jimmy happened to be leaving the dance floor with his partner. He was suddenly stopped in his tracks. A pair of beautiful blue eyes were staring at him with such intensity that he politely excused himself from his dance partner and sauntered over to the waiting Beaty. Eye to eye, they were locked. Now Jimmy was not one to mix words, but words seemed so out of place at that moment, as their eyes gazed deep into each others soul, and were lost.
What else could he say but, "You're the one for me."
And somehow, she just melted.
Does that happen now a days? What a corny line. I guess it worked, as they just couldn't resist each other.
James and Beatrice had a happy, loving life together, with a wonderful family of three beautiful daughters. One of them was my mother and they were my grandparents. But sadly this was only one of a very few stories handed down to me about them.
Oh, how great it would be to hear their stories in their own words, their own accents from the North of England, from their own personalities as we watch them communicate from the past through a DVD or a video. Sadly, the past, the lives, the moments are all gone. Passed to the great beyond. And one day your special moments will be gone too, lost to the great void of time.
Today, genealogy is a great hobby for many. The Internet has made it possible to research old records, church records, township records. What is the fascination?
It's our connection to them. Maybe we want to know if we resemble them in some way. Perhaps we want to know how long they lived. And in all considerations, we really want to know what gifts they sent on to us. Did great uncle Charlie have a wild sense of humor we may have inherited? Was a virus strain handed down through DNA to us? Was great Aunt Myrtle adopted? It's all quite relevant and it all matters, but to find that connection takes a lot of work.
So, what distinguishes us? What makes us unique in the world? Why are we special? It's what others see of us; our personality. That is what gives us the character we are.
I like to think of our personality as three things:
Our DNA: The history that is handed down to us from our ancestors, that we carry in our blood and that flows through our bodies.
Our Environment: What we are taught, what see around us. How we each influence the other. And how we react.
Our Spirit: Yes, that great Universal Spirit we know not of, that connects us all.
The Sea Captain
Now Simeon had tales to tell: of the high seas, the men of iron, the Victorian age in which he lived, and the love of his wife and family. But it is all lost. It all died that day on the dock with him. There's no one around who still remembers him. We know nothing of his personality. Unfortunately, Captain Simeon Hebb has now become that dash between the two dates, 1850 - 1885.
||My Great Grandfather, on my father's side was Captain Simeon Hebb. He was a Nova Scotia schooner Captain who sailed to the Grand Banks in search of the great catch. As thousands before him and thousands after him had done, he braved the cold North Atlantic month-in-month out to feed the community and the country. It was, and still is, a tough life. Thousands have been sent to their deaths to the depths of the great ocean, swallowed by the great big sea. Leaving so many to mourn at the dockside.
Well, Captain Simeon didn't die at sea. Before he could live his life out, he fell on the dock after returning from a great catch and died of complications of an appendicitis. He was in his thirties.
His son, my grandfather never met him, never knew him. He was still in the womb waiting to be born. Actually, YOU know about as much as the rest of the family knows about the life of Captain Simeon Hebb.
And so it goes, although we all have a story and a unique way to tell it, 99% of us will never take the opportunity to pass that story on to inspire others, or future generations.
Tell me, in 100 years who were you? Did anybody care about you? Did you matter? Were you even here? Can you prove it?
What is your Life? We are not just here for ourselves. Maybe you don't care, but others do. We are all of our time, and connected in more ways than we could ever imagine. The way we all influence each other is incalculable.
Have you taken care of the way you will be remembered or will the memory of you fade to obscurity? Sure, people will remember you for a lifetime; those who you touched with your friendship or your anger. But after that, then what, are you just an old faded picture in a bottom drawer, someone who people will never be able to relate to again?
If you want to know what Ben Franklin or Beethoven were like, you have to delve through the many books written about them or by them. In a century, if someone wants to know about you, they can now experience your personality on DVD or digital video, or whatever the transmission method is available at the time. Jimmy and Beaty or Captain Simeon never had that chance. But you do.
Churchill said it well, " History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."
Now-a-days he would probably make a DVD.
Yours is a living history. You have time to tell your story. But tomorrow is never promised. Today we have the technology. You can have a life biography produced on DVD or digital video to send your personality and ideas forward to excite and inspire generations yet to come. Maybe you want to set the record straight or leave your legacy.
America and the world hold such a great story telling tradition. You must let your descendents know who you are, and who you were, because you were here. You mattered.
In closing, I'd like to tell you, there will never be another like you. You are truly are a timeless legacy. Immortal, if you make it so. And you are constantly changing and making a difference in other people's lives. That's what life is all about.
So find a way to make a difference and record it so others will never forget you.
And never forget, you are worth it.
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