Sunday, September 25, 2016

Joy in the Morning

Awhile back, I wrote a blog post about this time of year--and how tough it is for me and my family. On September 29th Mom will be dead 10 years; on October 1st my sister Maureen will be gone an unbelievable 35 years. It's hard to identify with folks who love these early autumn days. For a long time now, these days have been filled with sadness and bittersweet memories (and, sadder, with the awareness of all the memories that have faded). Longing to see my much-loved ones again, to hear their voices. Marking the world events that have transpired since their passing (even, in Mo's case, the fashion trends that have come and gone:-) Everything has changed, in some cases utterly, since they walked the earth.  

Mom, Mo and Me

But on Friday, September 23rd, the week that has been marked by melancholy became a time of the greatest happiness. Peter Britten Seyfried, my second grandson, was born. And tiny Peter reminded me, reminded us, that beautiful and amazing new life still happens, even in the waning of the year. From now on, I will still recall the losses of course, but I will also remember the gains--the addition of an amazing daughter-in-law and now two precious grandchildren to our gang. Peter's birth is a triumph of hope over despair, a vote of confidence that this crazy mixed up world can become a little less crazy.

Our lives on this planet will end at some point, sooner or later. That much we know. But for now, we can choose to live with optimism, and do what we can to improve the bad situations. We can choose to embrace our existence, working to ease others' pain, to correct injustice, to leave our world a better place because we have been here. The popular Christian query WWJD? (what would Jesus do?) should be much more than an empty catchphrase. Because, deep down, we know what Jesus would do, don't we? Jesus would heal the sick and lonely. Jesus would offer refuge to the homeless. Jesus would forgive, unconditionally. Jesus, in every single instance, would show love and compassion. So maybe the question becomes: WSWD? (what should WE do?) And do we have the courage to do it? 

Peter, Elise, Joanie and Mo

I hold my little miracle in my arms on this early autumn day, a miracle that has done so much to redeem a time that has been sad for so long. I am inspired to help make this a wonderful world for Peter, and Aiden, and all the babies. I hold my grandchild and know that others hold him, too. A mom named Joanie--she holds Peter right along with me now. A girl named Maureen, who always wanted babies of her own but was taken much too soon--she too embraces our newest family member.  And as I stand, surrounded by love on earth and in Heaven too, I remember a Biblical promise: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Friday, September 2, 2016

It just arrived in the mail--the amazingly small box from containing an even smaller vial into which I will spit. The sealed, saliva-filled vial will be sent off for DNA testing and I will finally learn the truth: I am part Martian. Seriously, though, I am eager to get info about my forebears, if only to reassure myself that I have interesting relatives that go waaaaay back. At least I hope they are interesting. Famed artists come to mind, as do royals and war heroes. I'd even take a major criminal! Just don't let me have sprung from a long, dreary line of "average" people! I guess I’ll find out soon enough. 

I joined Ancestry last month, to trace my Irish roots on my mom's side. I know precious little: our family were the Sheridan's (hence my oldest son's name). Most of them lived in and around County Longford. My Great-grandma Minnie Sheridan emigrated to America sometime in the late 1880's. She, too, named one of her sons Sheridan (he died at age 4.) My Grandma Rose and Great-uncle Frank spent a couple of childhood years in Ireland, where they got to know their Aunt Roseanne and Uncle Felix. My mom's brother Jack and his wife traveled over there many years ago and were, I believe, somewhat successful in finding family connections. But I never learned what those connections were and honestly? Until recently I was not that curious. And my 29 years of intense parenting (I count from Sher's birth until Jules turned 18) left me with little energy to pursue this knowledge.

Becoming a grandmother has been like flipping a switch. All of a sudden, for the sake of Aiden and his sister-or-brother-to-be, our past has become very important to me, a mystery to solve, a gift to share and pass along to my precious little ones someday. I scan family photos like crazy; I gather up letters written by my own grandma and mom in hopes that my grandchildren may one day want to read them. 
Epitome of Catholic Education from 1885--Minnie's name is written in it

I'm planning to travel to Ireland with my daughters next year, to try and meet any kin remaining there. Meanwhile, my initial foray into old official records has yielded very little, mostly things I already knew. There is much more digging to be done, but I think I am going to enjoy the hunt.  Whether or not I discover anyone “notable” (though I have my fingers crossed about the late great Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan), I guess it doesn’t really matter. How “notable” will I be in a hundred years? Not very!

But I see life as a long chain, connecting us, one to another, down the centuries. Why not learn something about the people holding our hands from generation to generation, people whose looks and traits we have inherited? Why not expand our understanding of family (and we are ALL one family, when it comes down to it)?

And so I open the DNA kit. Here we go.