There’s a redemptive power in ancestry, and it’s part of the reason I’m doing all this.
Dying is my greatest fear.
This will be pretty damn ironic to those who know me and also know that I regularly do things that put me directly in harm’s way (eg running with the bulls, getting hit by said bulls, etc). It’s true though. I am afraid of dying. And because of this, I can often be found reading articles and watching videos about the latest health or environmental crisis in the world.
Here are just a few of the things that can be found in my browser history:
- “What To Do When The Yellowstone Volcano Finally Erupts”
- “Why You Should Stop Drinking Tap Water Right Now”
- “7 Tips on How to Protect Your Kids from Ebola”
I don’t even have kids, but I’ll be damned if they get Ebola.
I’m also a big fan of futurists. Men and women like Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil who envision a future where death is a thing of the past and eternal life is possible through advances in medicine and science. No longer would we have to worry about things like old age, cancer, or Ebola. Heck, let Yellowstone explode. I’ll watch the fireworks from my beach chair on Mars.
What about my ancestors though?
I’m often reminded of a quote that I often see attributed to the street artist Banksy but I’m sure belongs to someone else:
Everybody dies twice.
First, when your heart stops beating.
And second, when someone says your name for the last time.
It’s astonishing to me to think that it’s even a possibility to be forgotten. I realize how absolutely narcissistic that sounds but I’m sure it’s true for most people. We know and interact with so many people every day, at work or home or at the improv class you take on Tuesday nights.
We have people in our lives who love us and who would literally die for us at a moment’s notice, people who would never, in a million years consider forgetting you as even a possibility. And yet, despite all this, there will come a time when there’s no one else on Earth who remembers who you are. Everything that you were, everything that was so uniquely you, will be dust moldering alone six feet below a layer of astroturf.
That’s why ancestry and genealogy is just so damn important to me.
Ancestry might not bring these people back, but it gives us an avenue to preserve their life in a beautiful way. By dedicating our time and energy into simply remembering who these people were, what they did, how they loved and lost, we pay homage to them in a way that no statue or painting could ever do.
I read a great article recently on how we almost have a moral obligation to learn as much about our ancestors as we can. After all, no matter who they are or what they did during their time on this Earth, I owe my entire life to them. All the happiest and saddest moments I have would never have happened if they didn’t struggle and carve out their place in the world.
There’s possibly no better way of showing of my gratitude to them than by just simply remembering their lives and time on Earth.
Maybe, though, part of me just hopes someone would do the same for me.