“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” -Alex Haley
Family ties are one of the most prolific sources of irrational actions taken by humans. A bloodline can lead a person to do things they wouldn’t do for any other reason. That irrational loyalty could be the reason the forces of evil are hell bent on destroying families. People will favor the family before the flag. That’s why communist countries have always claimed state ownership of children. Family bonds are dangerous to those in power. Loyalty to one’s bloodline is primary; and therefore, it threatens the primacy of the state. Some of the most inspiring stories from history are those where people risked everything to save their children, brothers and sisters from thugs and tyrants. If I were the devil, I’d try and break family ties, bound by blood, so that people would have fewer reasons to lead one another towards salvation. If that is his plan, it’s working wonderfully. Our families are not only shrinking, but they are divided by divorce and abuse, and a thousand other modern maladies.
Many years ago, I was afforded a favor by a cousin that I didn’t even know because he was inspired by family loyalty. Even though we’d never met, he felt he owed it to the patriarchs to support the family. I’m blessed to have many cousins that I know well, and many more that I’ve never met. Before there were networking seminars to attend, extended family was a natural network of influence and support. It’s something my children will never understand. Families are shrinking, so they are likely to know all their cousins. They will never have the pleasure of meeting one late in life and sharing an oral tradition that is not identical, but very similar. A familiar stranger will probably never call them out of the blue and enhance their life in any way. Pity. Maybe their children will provide the next baby boom and a fresh batch of cousins.
Twenty years (or so) after the War Between the States, my great-great-grandfather left Springfield, KY, on horseback bound for Daviess County. I’ve never ascertained the exact reason he made the move, but there are a number of families that left Washington County and arrived here about that time. My guess is that they were searching for greener pastures. I’ve made the pilgrimage to Springfield several times to tour the churches and scour the tombstones of my forbearers. The first time I ventured there, I could feel my blood stirring in a very strange way. I felt I had been there before. Through this connection to the past, I was given hope for the future. The bloodline that had made the journey across the Atlantic, and then from Maryland to Kentucky, was still intact. As I walked through those headstones in another part of the state, I was surrounded by familiar names. I thought of the struggles and obstacles they went through in order to survive their trip through the mountains and valleys to arrive there on the graveyard hill at St. Rose. I remember reading of the family of one great-grandfather (not sure how many greats back he’d be). He and his wife lost seven children on the journey from Maryland. I imagine they arrived broken and beaten, but their bloodline survived; thrived even. From there the family would rebuild and rebound. And here we are, two hundred years later.
There’s a legend that I’ve read on Ancestry.com that says when the Marylanders arrived in Kentucky, they would meet on Saturday nights. After shaking hands, neighbors would turn around and kick each other in the rear end as punishment for ever leaving Maryland. They bought their new home at the great cost of tackling hostile natives and an untamed environment. That investment, made with blood, sweat, and tears is what landed my children in the fertile soil of West Daviess County centuries later. When I think of those early, tail kicking, settlers that celebrated Mass at Holy Cross and later St. Rose, I’m given hope for the future. My favorite hymn is Faith of Our Fathers. In spite of the modern challenges my own family faces, I find myself steadied by the hope given me by my fathers. Though we are threatened by challenges of a different kind, the family has always been in danger of annihilation. We have always persevered. And so it continues. May we never forget the sacrifices made by others to carry us this far.