This I Believe

Sue - Dallas, Texas
Entered on May 24, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: gratitude, legacy

Make the Most of the Gift of Life

My faith informs my belief that everyone has a purpose, even though, sadly, many people will never be able to fulfill their destinies.

This belief has been dramatically reinforced as I research my family history. I have begun to see the larger picture—beyond the fact that all of my direct ancestors were fertile!

Imagine all the traumas and trials they must have survived or avoided long enough to produce offspring. They escaped or successfully battled famine and the Black Death; they endured in the face of typhoid fever, smallpox, pneumonia, and influenza.

They did not succumb early to heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or any number of other life-threatening conditions. If they had childhood diseases, good genes or good fortune saw them through.

My European ancestors obviously survived the ocean voyage to the New World—all before 1800—and my Cherokee forebears made a much earlier and longer passage from Asia.

For all I know, previous generations of my family may have lived through earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, wars, or extreme temperatures. They did not fall prey to fatal snakebites or attacks by bears or wolves. They may have survived electrocution, wagon and auto accidents, and falls into wells or from ladders or roofs. My female ancestors survived the perils of childbirth at least once.

Most of my forebears likely did not die by their own hand or through the violence of others (although one great-grandfather was murdered on the street by a religious fanatic in Itasca, Texas, and another took his own life in Knoxville, Tennessee, despondent over the death of my great-grandmother).

One of my great-great-grandfathers was 10 years old when his entire family was wiped out during an Indian raid in Alabama. If his parents had lived, he might not have trekked westward to Texas as a young lawyer and met his future wife, whom he first encountered by chance when she was a young child lost in the East Texas woods.

As I thought about all the ways my ancestors could have died without children, I came to a shocking realization when I learned more about just my grandparents’ generation. I saw the irony that if some other people had lived, I would not have been born.

At age 17, my mother’s mother was a widow with a child. Only because her first husband had died in a work accident was it possible for her to marry my grandfather and bear eight more children.

My father’s father lost his first two wives in childbirth, paving the way for him to court and marry my grandmother, who was 20 years his junior.

Make the Most of the Gift of Life

My faith informs my belief that everyone has a purpose, even though, sadly, many people will never be able to fulfill their destinies.

This belief has been dramatically reinforced as I research my family history. I have begun to see the larger picture—beyond the fact that all of my direct ancestors were fertile!

Imagine all the traumas and trials they must have survived or avoided long enough to produce offspring. They escaped or successfully battled famine and the Black Death; they endured in the face of typhoid fever, smallpox, pneumonia, and influenza.

They did not succumb early to heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or any number of other life-threatening conditions. If they had childhood diseases, good genes or good fortune saw them through.

My European ancestors obviously survived the ocean voyage to the New World—all before 1800—and my Cherokee forebears made a much earlier and longer passage from Asia.

For all I know, previous generations of my family may have lived through earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, wars, or extreme temperatures. They did not fall prey to fatal snakebites or attacks by bears or wolves. They may have survived electrocution, wagon and auto accidents, and falls into wells or from ladders or roofs. My female ancestors survived the perils of childbirth at least once.

Most of my forebears likely did not die by their own hand or through the violence of others (although one great-grandfather was murdered on the street by a religious fanatic in Itasca, Texas, and another took his own life in Knoxville, Tennessee, despondent over the death of my great-grandmother).

One of my great-great-grandfathers was 10 years old when his entire family was wiped out during an Indian raid in Alabama. If his parents had lived, he might not have trekked westward to Texas as a young lawyer and met his future wife, whom he first encountered by chance when she was a young child lost in the East Texas woods.

As I thought about all the ways my ancestors could have died without children, I came to a shocking realization when I learned more about just my grandparents’ generation. I saw the irony that if some other people had lived, I would not have been born.

At age 17, my mother’s mother was a widow with a child. Only because her first husband had died in a work accident was it possible for her to marry my grandfather and bear eight more children.

My father’s father lost his first two wives in childbirth, paving the way for him to court and marry my grandmother, who was 20 years his junior.

Lives lived long enough, or lives cut short, have made it possible for me to BE. This truth demands that I make the most of the gift of life I have been granted.