For the past year or so I have been spending a lot of time on family history. And I mean a LOT! Have you ever read those "Family History Moments" in the Church News? You know, the ones where someone has been searching for years with no luck and suddenly they meet a random stranger who happens to have thousands of names ready for the temple or something equally miraculous? That has been my year.
Well, sort of.
I have, in fact, been overwhelmed with information about families that seemed to have appeared one day with no past history. I have met distant relatives who had a wealth of information for me. I have seen photographs of people who lived and died long before I was ever born. It has been humbling and deeply gratifying.
But many unexpected blessings have come about because of this. I used to think I understood the Spirit of Elijah. I now know that I was clueless.
I have learned about my ancestors lives. I have looked at more than names and dates and places. I have been able to see the bigger picture. I can imagine what they felt when they immigrated to America. I can better understand the efforts they made to survive in the rural frontiers. I can better understand the heartache of loss when their children died from war and disease. I can marvel at their longevity in a time when the average life expectancy was quite short. I have laughed at the strange names they gave their children. I have raised an eyebrow at their scandals. No matter what I learn I feel deeper love and respect. I also feel hope.
There have been many challenges in our family in recent years. When you are in the middle of those problems, whether they come one after another or all at once or are on-going, they can seem overwhelming. I sometimes feel frustrated that life is not easier, that the perfect life I imagine is just a mirage. At times I have been deeply discouraged. Learning about my ancestors has given me better perspective.
I realize that they, too, had dreams and fears, trials and triumphs. I find myself feeling very blessed to have so many luxuries. I am ashamed of my slothfulness when I see what they were able to accomplish. I see the ripple of their choices, both good and bad, through their children and grandchildren.
Most of all, I want to be worthy to stand with them someday. I want to add to the legacy they have left behind in a way that would make them proud. I want to be a person who will one day engender such feelings in future generations.
I never knew such blessings were possible.