This I Believe

Sue - Dallas, TX 75218, Texas
Entered on January 30, 2007
Age Group: 65+

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 survived 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 lightning strikes, 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.