A couple of months ago, my sister called me not once but twice saying that she needed to talk to me.
Of course, I thought something terrible had happened. I talked to my mom, and everything was fine. So what was so important?
I called back, and she asked me if I had joined the family on a private Facebook group, and why I was not accepting a friend request from a cousin of ours that I didn’t even know on Facebook!
I couldn’t believe it! That is not an urgent enough reason to call me over and over!
Well, this whole ordeal started us down a path of her asking questions regarding dates and facts about our family. She also insisted that I send some pictures of my immediate family to the cousin I had never met or talked to before.
Although it was a strange conversation, I didn’t think too much of it. I didn’t really want to expose some of my family history. There are some pieces of it that I really didn’t want to remember or think about.
So I just forgot about it because I didn’t want to deal with it.
My sister was not so quick to forget. She kept sending me texts about it, and then my mom started talking about sending her old pictures and telling me old family stories. That made me finally make contact with my cousin. I accepted her friend request on Facebook, and I got into the private Facebook group.
When you can’t beat them, join them!
Throughout this whole process, I learned some valuable life lessons. Lessons that apply not only to this particular experience but to almost every life event or experience.
Lesson #1 – Having an open mind and an open heart is a door for opportunities in life.
You know what? I discovered a beautiful surprise!
I learned that there was a project in the works to build a family book! It was going to include the history of my great-grandparents from my mother’s side. They were from Madeira, an island of Portugal, and had 11 children. My grandmother was number 3.
We were asked to add some stories from each descendent of my great-grandparents. My grandparents alone had 9 children, so imagine the size of my whole extended family!
My cousin, whom I had never met in person, was actually an amazing person. When I decided to connect with her by phone, we spent 2 hours talking. It was just amazing! It felt like we had known each other for years and we had so much in common! Having made this beautiful discovery in my family brought me so much joy and fulfillment. I can’t even describe it. It was something I didn’t even know I was missing out on.
Lesson #2 – Promises coming from the heart are never broken.
During our call, the conversation went beyond the family information and pictures and started to get very emotional. I promised my grandma I would write a book about the stories she told me before she died. And suddenly I had a sign right in front of me to make it happen!
My grandmother had a beautiful soul, and I loved to spend time with her. She passed away when I was 17 years old. During the time I was applying to colleges, she would tell me she wanted to see me graduate! I would be the first person in the family to go to college, and I always felt it was a responsibility of mine to our family to lead by example.
During the last year of her life, she was battling cancer. She spent most of her time going to chemo treatments and hospital appointments. And because I was the only member of the family available, I took a lot of the responsibility of being with my grandma. That meant long hours in the hospital while she was getting her treatments and going to her appointments.
That was a long time to be there, and I had to study. My grandma would help me study biology during her treatments. Everybody in that hospital knew I was going to college. I was my grandma’s pride and joy! They told jokes about studying biology and knowing all the species’ names! It was just hilarious! I think focusing on my school relieved her from some of her pain. As painful as they are, we made some really wonderful memories.
I am telling all this because this book and the stories of my grandma were hidden in my heart. Not completely, but I had shelved the idea of telling the story of my grandma, as I had promised.
The family book project just happened to light a spark in me and I took over the lead to tell some stories about all the descendants of my grandma! This was something beautiful, as it forced me to reconnect with some distant family members and to remember some beautiful stories.
The whole process has just been wonderful! I am so happy to have my cousin, Filomena, taking this initiative and making it happen!
She told me she had maybe 11 envelopes with pictures and documents for each descendant of my great-grandparents, and it required a lot of organization and time. It reminded me of those movies where something is investigating something and they have a huge wall of linkages and connections from the past.
As we continue to work on the family book, our conversations are full of constant discovery. It feels like we are writing a novel.
Lesson #3 – Your past doesn’t define your future, but it is a part of who you are.
I am learning to manage my reactions to the family memories I didn’t really want to come back to. I’m realizing they are actually a part of my history, but they do not define me as a person. Welcoming those moments in that time of my life has been a blessing because they have taught me to accept who I am.
Writing 10 pages of my family’s evolution for something as wonderful as this book has been, unexpected, but something that I am very grateful to be part of.
Have you ever been through an expected moment in your life where your past crossed your present? How did you feel and what did it teach you