Last February, I posted something I am repeating below, in part.
In it, I explained that I had not been in touch with anyone on my mother's side of the family in many years (by my count, it must be over 30 years).
At about the same time, the genealogy website Ancestry.com offered a free weekend. I took advantage of it, and I started to build a family tree of my mother's side of the family, the ____s. Of course, my memory being limited, I didn't get that far. After the weekend ended, I decided I didn't have the time to pursue this (as Ancestry is not a free website, I didn't want to waste my money).
Earlier this week I received a generic message in an email from Ancestry.com, with a family name I did not recognize but a message saying that she was working on a family tree of the ____s and thought we might be related. I clicked to respond, and found I had to join Ancestry even to send a message.
Yesterday, I received another email, and I hope this woman doesn't mind me quoting it (with names deleted, of course):
" Hi, I just spoke to my father (let's call him "N"), who told me that you are first cousins. My mom was thrilled that I had found you. Seems like they had been looking to contact you for years and could not find out where you were. They would love to be able to write or call you."
Her father "N" is vague in my memory. I did some quick research (what I could get for free, because I could not remember his first name), but I sure knew the last name well. Could I truly have been found by my mother's family by someone, after years of searching?
I discovered that Ancestry was having another free weekend for our Memorial Day weekend, and I had limited access to the site again! I messaged back, with some more information. And then I heard back.
The answer is yes. I have been found by someone on my mother's side of the family.
The woman who sent me the message is my first cousin once removed on my mother's side (her grandmother and my mother were sisters). Her mother, an aunt who had continued contact with me for a few years after I married, passed away (my newly found cousin told me) in 1998. And now we have each other's email addresses.
I told my husband and I think he was just as, if even more, excited than I am.
And now, part of the post from February.
The Power of Compassion
You really have to watch those women from Nebraska. They sneak up on you.
So, I learned today there was a project called "1000 Voices for Compassion", where bloggers were encouraged to " write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment etc, and ALL PUBLISH ON THE SAME DAY (Feb 20th) to flood the Blogosphere with GOOD!"
This young woman from Nebraska talked about her fiance. She is in an interracial relationship. She talks honestly about some of the "ugly looks" that have been directed in their direction.
So let me tell you a little bit about myself that I have never told my readers about before, and tell you about lessons in compassion that I never fully realized until recently.
In 1970, when I was 17 years old, I started dating a boy who was going to the same college as I was. We were of different religions. I am Jewish. My husband is Catholic. In 1970, that mattered.
It mattered a lot.
Some members of my family were less than thrilled. I have had no contact with my mother's side of my family in many, many years. Some members of my future husband's family were less than thrilled, too.
But there were the many people who had compassion, who saw past the religious differences, who accepted us for who we are, and I owe a great debt of gratitude to every one of them. Until tonight, I've never thanked them publicly. Some of them, sadly, are no longer with us, having moved on to the next level of existence. But I want to say to each of them, "Thank you". My grandfather. Cousins. A childhood friend. My husband's next door neighbor. Some Aunts and Uncles on both sides of our family. And this is just for starters.
Meanwhile, we, my husband and I, have been married for nearly 41 years. Our love is deep. I hope that young woman in Nebraska can say the same about her and her Warrior Man, 41 years from now. (Too bad I won't be around to help her celebrate.)
Times have changed tremendously. I owe a debt to those who went before me, who helped pave the path of compassion that my husband and I walked. I haven't done enough to extend that path to the generations that have followed me.
You never know what one small act of compassion will do, until you are on the receiving end.