Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lines

First things first: I have been a neglectful blog steward. Sorry. Lots going on, including some traveling. But I'm back now.

I finished a book last night about a 19th-century Mohawk medicine woman working amongst the American prisoners of war across the British-Canadian border during the War of 1812. She is summoned to the quarters of the commanding officer, and does not know what to expect of the meeting. She knows the British do not see value in her work, and cannot imagine that his motives or intentions are either in her favor, or that of the prisoners she tends.

As she walks through the garrison on her way to the lion's den, she recites her lineage, which, amongst the Mohawk, is matrilineal. She lists the women who were her progenitors, her mother, stepmother, grandmother, and so on. She tells herself that they can take away everything, but they cannot take who she is: the product of generations of women who lived their lives in a way that brought honor even to those offspring they would never meet.

Her connections define her identity -- and her connections comprise her most prized possessions.

I have an ancestor named Mary Keaton. I didn't know her -- I have never even met anyone who met her, because she lived many generations ago. She is my father's 4th great-grandmother.

My dad grew up on a tobacco farm in central North Carolina. It was very rural, and they were very poor. His parents were both God-fearing, Christian people. His mother, my grandmother, attended a primitive Baptist congregation where she was known for her benevolent spirit, charitable nature, and beautiful singing voice. My grandfather did not attend services, but he read his Bible every day. They raised 13 intelligent, hardworking children who all survived to adulthood, a miracle unto itself.

Before my baby brother left on his mission, my entire family (mom, dad, four children and the three so-far spouses) attended the temple. After Little Bro's endowment session, we gathered together in a sealing room to do some family file work. My husband and I had the privilege to proxy for my grandparents so my dad and could be sealed to them. It was truly a choice experience.

My parents proxied for the sealing of Mary Keaton to her husband. I can scarcely describe the spirit that existed in that tiny room as we participated in uniting another generation of our family for eternity. Even the sealer was affected.

"I don't know who she was," he said, "but she was really special."

We all felt it, and I had the clear impression that the reason my dad was prepared to accept the Gospel when he heard it generations later was because of the habits that Mary Keaton instilled in her children so many years ago . . . who passed on the same values to their children, and their grandchildren, on down to my dad's generation. The same values he has tried to instill in us, and that I am responsible for teaching to my own children. No matter the gender of this child I carry, Mary Keaton will be honored somehow.

I am InkMom. I am the daughter of a great woman, who saw the Gospel for the truth that it is before I was born, and taught it to me and my siblings, and who taught us how to live the same way her mother taught her. I am the granddaughter of Clare, who loved and lived better than anyone else I know, and who I think held onto my babies in heaven until I was ready to receive them; and I am the granddaughter of Stella Catherine, who worked so hard in her life that she even died at her quilt frame, and whose fervent example of hard work I will never cease to emulate, and always fail to attain.

I am a privileged daughter of God, brought to this earth during a time fraught with spiritual danger, but rife with opportunities to grow and share the Gospel with others. I was shaped by the choices of the generations that came before me, and my unique spirit brings new and different dimensions to the family that will be mine for eternity, and that I enlarge as I bring my own children into this world and raise them.

Intelligence? Yes, we will take it with us. But what is it worth without our connections?

10 comments:

  1. Loved this post. :)

    Ironically enough, I've been writing one in my head for several days now about Grandma Stella Catherine...

    about her biscuits, and her early morning singing and the sweet peace I feel whenever I think of waking up in the back bedroom of her house.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The power of the women in my life is worth writing about it too, may be one day I'll get to it. :)

    Hopefully 3 generations ahead my great-grandchildren can talk about their foreigner great-grandmother. I pray I make a difference in their lives.

    Sorry and this may make you laugh because to you it might be so obvious to you but what's a sealing room?? :s

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have long maintained that we take just three things with us into the next life: The things we've learned, an increased capacity for obedience, and our relationships. You've summed it up here, beautifully, as always.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I LOVED this post too!!! Wow. That is all I can say about how beautifully written it is. Also, I am so wanting to go and learn about all the women in my family line. Thanks so much for sharing this!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think about this a lot. My aunt once told my mom, that out of her daughters, she thought I was most like my mom, I cherish this comment. I love it because I adore my mother and her fabulous attitude toward life, but also because I know she is just like her mom, and on and on. I wonder whose clone we all are! But I love my mothers, and can't wait to pass it on!

    But, I also must say I am extremely curious about what happened to the woman at the beginning of the story. I am waiting for the death sentence, you set it up too well for me not to know what happened to her. Fill me in! Please, I don't have time right now to read the book!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a beautiful post. I had the opportunity to participate in my mom being sealed to her parents, and it was also a remarkable experience...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Amazingly written. I love how learning about our ancestors brings them so much closer to us. Why would we want to spend time with these people later on if we can't learn to love them and their actions now?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Aaahhh! I love good writing, especially with important thoughts behind it!! You make me happy!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey Emily. I actually agree with what you said. When I read what you write, it brings me back to BYU. I can "hear" your voice... Anyway, glad you enjoyed my blog. I'm still figuring out all that I can do with it(I actually have posted dated entries to 2005 and hope to bring the entries up to the present). You'll have to come over to Ireland at some stage. The picture books are true. Anyway, better run. "Talk soon"

    ReplyDelete

Sock it to me!