I didn’t get my blog written yesterday, because I was too busy celebrating thankfulness.
Last year we were a small bubble of a family in lockdown. We didn’t know if and when there would be vaccines available. The numbers were alarming. This year, though the numbers are still of concern, we’re back to small, traditional gatherings of double-vaxxed friends. Much to be thankful for, then and now. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic it’s that we must enjoy and feel grateful for each day.
There’s a great deal wrong with our beleaguered world, but today I’ve been appreciating many things – not just the abundance of the splendid Thanksgiving dinners, nor the beauty of the surprisingly sunny day, but the sheer miracle of being alive here at this moment.
Every day I feel grateful for my family, and I think of the long chain of ancestors that brought us here. I say blessings for my mother and father and for their mothers and fathers, and for all the great-grandparents I didn’t know. I try to imagine sending blessings to all my ancestors, but my Google search says that I have 16 great grandparents, 128 great-great-great-great-great grandparents, which adds up to 254 ancestors. If I think about my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents, that would total 4,096 which would add up to 8,190 ancestors. That’s based on an average of 25 years per generation. Some generations might be longer or shorter, And there would likely be some consanguinity, marriages between cousins, and so on, which would reduce the total number a bit.
I’d like to thank all these people without whom I would not be here, but it’s hard to imagine the lives of some 8,000 people, let alone how to thank them. And then I think about the fact that my daughter would not be here without my husband and all his ancestors which adds another 8,000. And, my granddaughter would not be here without my son-in-law and all his ancestors, another 8,000. So it’s probably about 24,000 people whom I should thank, and that’s only going back 250 years! There’s hundreds of thousands of people lined up before that, but for the moment I’ll stop at 10 greats.
I’m grateful to those 24,000 hardy people, all of whom survived their birth experience, probably lived through childhood illnesses, accidents, injuries, enduring wars and other hardships and had at least one sexual encounter that resulted in a pregnancy and a live birth. I don’t know much about their lives, but those facts are something to think about. And my husband and I, and my daughter and her husband, were also lucky enough to manage to survive all those pitfalls.
It’s astonishing good fortune! A miracle!
But I can’t get my head around it, so I say a group thank-you to all my ancestors. Mostly I simply focus on the joys and good fortune of the present moment. A single flower. A sunny day. A colourful little squash.
I remember my mother quoting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and I think now of the words she so often recited:
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal:
“Dust thou art, to dust returnest,”
Was not spoken of the soul…
Let us then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labour and to wait.
There’s much to be doing, and much for which to be thankful, as my father used to say every year on this holiday.