“My grandmother, Catherine (Cassie) Helmer, died when my Dad was age 13,” wrote my mother. “People who knew her thought I was much like her. In my hearing, old Aunt Maggie once said in her thick Scottish brogue, ‘Cassie will always be with us as long as that gairl (girl) walks the airth (earth).’”
Over the decades, Aunt Maggie’s declaration has played through my thoughts dozens of times. I wish I knew more! What about my mother, specifically, reminded Aunt Maggie of Cassie? (She’s on the right in this photo.)
Did my mom act like her grandmother Cassie? Look like her? Talk like her?
And even more intriguing to me: What did I inherit from my great-grandmother Cassie?
Each of us has a whole lot of DNA from our ancestors.
My brother’s fingers are just like our father’s, but his fingernails are a little different. My brother’s hand gestures also remind me of our dad—like the way he rubs his nose.
When I watch my son speak—the way his nose and lips and jaw move—I’m seeing my dad speak.
Often when I talk on the phone with my brother, I marvel at how he sounds like my son—his voice, manner of speaking, and the points he makes.
You have a whole lot of DNA from your ancestors. Which physical qualities or mannerisms did you inherit from your ancestors?
What about skills and aptitudes? Perhaps you inherited your grandmother’s artistic talents, or your great-grandfather’s interest in medicine.
Your ancestors also handed down their influence.
How did previous generations establish a “culture” evident in family gatherings? Did your grandparents or great-grandparents dine in style with the whole family, using fine linens and crystal goblets and polished silver? Were good manners of the utmost importance?
Or is your family more like Tony’s? My kids brought Tony home with them from college for a few days and after he had hung around the house for a day and a half, he asked my husband, Dave, “Do you always eat together as a family?”
When Dave answered yes, Tony said, “I’ve never sat down with my family to eat.”
Dave must have looked puzzled because Tony went on, “Everybody’s on their own. When people at my house get hungry, they grab something from the fridge or the pantry.”
Was your childhood home, or your grandparents’ home, a cheerful place, or full of tension? A place you felt secure, or on guard?
What attitudes and values did your family pass down to you?
Did God have any part in your great-grandparents’ or grandparents’ or parents’ lives? How did their perspectives on God shape your concept of Him and your relationship with Him?
God used your ancestors’ influence as well as their DNA to mold you into the person you are today.
If you haven’t already given much thought to that, I urge you to do so in coming weeks and months.
Memoir-writing involves retrospection and unraveling. It includes examining both minute details and the bigger picture.
What has God done in and through your ancestors and in your own life to bring you to today?
Write your stories!
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