Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The 768 People You Meet in Heaven

Have you ever thought about who you will one day meet in heaven?  Top on my list is Jesus, but also some people I know from Bible history.  Think about it, they are NOT fairy tale characters, but real flesh and blood people, as real as you and me.  Sometimes I think about what it must have been like to be Esther, or Job, or Mary, and I think about questions I'd like to ask them.  I also look forward to a happy reunion with believing loved ones who've gone before me.  How wonderful it will be to hug my dad and my sweet Aunt Alice again.  My grandmother died when I was only 3 years old, so I never really knew her, but I'm told she was very sweet and could play a mean game of dominoes.  I sure hope we'll get to play a game together!

But in addition to these people, I also look forward to meeting ancestors I've never met.

Along with a cupboard full of old photo albums, a copy of our family tree that was put together by a cousin of mine has long sat in my desk drawer as well as a hand-written tree that went back several generations.  I decided it was time to take them out, dust them off, and put the information together in a way that I could hand down to my kids and grandkids.  Otherwise, once I'm gone, my kids won't have any idea who these folks were.

It's amazing the amount of information a little online research can produce.  In the course of about a year, my tree has grown to 768 people, including ancestors on 3 continents, and dating back to the late 1500's.  I've also found distant cousins and learned about family I never knew I had.  I used to think that people who were into genealogy had an unhealthy obsession with the past. After all, these people were dead and gone, right?  But when I started learning about my own ancestors' personal history, considered what their lives may have been like, and thought about actually meeting them someday, my thinking changed.

I come from tough stock, and I have learned that many of the women in my family tree survived difficult lives, often widowed and left to raise their children.  I thought it was rather scandalous that my great grandmother had been married 4 times, then I realized that in her time a husband was the main means of support -- there was no social security and women didn't work.  My other great grandmother was widowed due to a coal mining accident. leaving her with 5 children and pregnant with twins.  What amazing and strong women they must have been!

The men in my tree were remarkable too.  One grandfather came to America as an indentured servant but worked his way up to becoming a respected landowner.  Others immigrated from Ireland about the time of the great potato famine, seeking employment and opportunities.  What discrimination and hardships they faced here, and yet they endured!  I have also discovered several ancestors that fought in the Civil War.  Three of them claimed to have been present to witness General Lee's surrender to Grant and they were very proud of that.  I am wondering, however, as the story seems to repeat often, whether this was just a favorite veteran's tale.

One branch of my family tree even dates back to England in the late 1500's.  Although I haven't yet confirmed when they came to America, it must have been about the time of the Mayflower.  Sometimes I think about what it must have been like to be an individual living in England at that time and what led them to decide to leave everything behind and make the dangerous trip to the "New World."  They really risked it all, and the reason most people came was seeking religious freedom.  I am awed by this example of such great faith in God -- and such a passion to obey Him that they would risk everything to make the journey to this new unknown land.  Wow!  These are some of my ancestors I look forward to meeting most and hearing tales of their faith!  Hey, Ebenezer.........

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