From The Archives: A Reflection on Loss: Part One

by Dani

This post was originally published Aug 3rd, 2011 about a week after the death of my grandmother. It is reposted today on the third anniversary of her death.


I’ve had occasion to think about loss a lot over the last week.

I lost my grandmother a week ago. My children lost their great-grandmother, their beloved Grandma K.

So I’ve found myself thinking and talking a lot about family over the last week, about genealogy. And I find that I am in a rather interesting position.

On one hand, half of my genealogy, my ancestry, is almost completely unknown. The few things I think I know are not even proven. I can relate, even sympathize, with adoptees who feel the sting of closed birth records and birth certificates that tell lies. Part of my history is covered and changed or simply left blank.

My knowledge of another fourth of my genealogy and ancestry is severely limited. I know a few names and I know they are fact, but I don’t know stories or a real history. There is no relationship because that part of my family is mostly cut off from me due to the hurt and pain of others.

Three fourths of my story is so similar to the situation my children are in, to the information they have or more accurately do not have. I pray that this will help me in understanding their pain and loss as they grow.

But then there is the other fourth of my genealogy and ancestry, the part that passes through my grandmother. That part I know so very much about. There are numerous (and huge) books that can tell me all kinds of things about my ancestors. I can trace my roots back through 7, 8, 9, even 10 generations to the men and women who sailed across the ocean from Switzerland and Germany to escape religious persecution. I can claim to be a descendant from names like Treyer/Troyer, Hochstetler, Schmucker, and Klopenstine. I know names and details. My great-great grandmother died in childbirth at the age of 38 leaving 8 children. One great-great-great grandfather was an Amish bishop who’s writings were actually published. A historical fiction book was written based on the events in the life of one of these ancestors. And standing at the head of my grandmother’s grave I can see the graves of 2 great-grandparents, 3 great-great-grandparents, and 2 great-great-great-grandparents.

That’s crazy deep roots, ya’ll.

And when I think about those crazy deep roots, my heart hurts for all my children have lost.