Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lost Relatives

We discovered we have a 90 year old cousin once removed, my father's aunt's daughter (whew!) living in New York. Florence, as far as I know the last of that generation in our lineage, has a birthday this week, one day after my Dad's. I never heard anything about this cousin! I never even knew my granddad had a sister. My sweet cousin, Carol, has sent us all Florence's address so we can send her photos of our families and wish her a happy birthday.

And then while checking my facebook page, I saw a person with my husband's last name. Only our family and his two brothers and Mother have that last name in America, as far as I know. So who is this mystery person? I friended "Star" on Facebook, just in case this was another long lost relative no one knew about.

Now given my mental deficit for names and memory, I may indeed have known at one time that my Granddad had a sister. However, my Dad is very good about telling us about our familial connections, and I don't recall this Florence ever being mentioned, nor that she was still alive!Nor that she lived in New York! My Granddad jumped off the boat as it sailed from Italy into New York Harbor, and swam to his new life as an illegal immigrant with nothing but the (wet) clothes on his back. He didn't even speak English. How did his sister get here? Did she swim too? Did she come later? I hope my Dad will be able to chime in and fill in the gaps. The older I get, the more I long for connection to my roots.

When I was a new Christian, I used to plod through all the names, genealogies, and boring family lineages outlined on page after page after page of the Bible. Why does God bother, I wondered? I don't know these people, most have no relevance to the Story, and are unpronounceable to boot. I understand that the detail and careful recording of these kinds of facts gives weight to the Bible as being an accurate recounting of history, and there is value in that. But I tend to skip over the lists of names. I always feel a little guilty when I do that, since I believe every word of the Bible is inspired, "God-breathed." But why all this focus on inconsequential people?

In American History, which we are studying in our homeschool this year, there are at least a million names and dates to memorize. Every day we learn about ten or so people from the history of our country that are vital to our understanding of America. People, people, people everywhere I turn. And me, with name recall deficit!  Poor Asherel and I are wading through all these names and trying to figure out which ones are important enough that she will need to regurgitate them for the SAT 2 exam at the end of the year.

I think perhaps God would say they are all important. Not important in terms of achieving a good score on the SAT 2, but important in terms of worth. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a place in history. Everyone is a piece of the novel of humanity. I want to ask Florence what gave my granddad the courage to jump off that ship and swim to his new country? Did Florence know what he was going to do? Did she want to leave Italy as well or was she forced to? Were the seeds of who I was to become, or my children evident in my young Grandfather? Did he draw, did he love animals? Of course I have the stories from my Dad, but a sister's perspective is so different from a son's. And she knew Granddad as a youngster in Italy.

I know that mentioning God in a crowd will not dispel them, but mentioning the idea of a "personal God", who has a name and who knows and loves and cares for each of us personally....that can sink a party faster than the Titanic. And yet, that is the aspect of God that I find increasingly compelling. He knows me by name. He knows each of us by name, just as He knew Shephuphan, ,Ishpah, Hammoleketh, and my cousin once removed Florence, by name. To God, none of us are inconsequential; none of us will reach our 90th birthday undiscovered by Him. Our names are on His lips and He has been calling since time began. That has got to make your day feel a little lighter.

Isaiah 43:1
But now, this is what the Lord says-
He who created you, Jacob,
He who formed you Israel:
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
You are mine."

1 comment:

  1. Florence's dad came to America from Italy, fought for the US in WWI for a year, THEN became a US Citizen, went back to Italy to help his mother settle his grandfather's estate in 1919. While in Italy just two short months, he married your grandfather's sister who automatically became a US Citizen by marriage. They came back to America, owned and ran a candy factory and had two children: Elvio (died in 2003) and Florence, your 90 year-old first cousin once removed.