One year ago today, I woke up to one of the most exhilarating days I have ever known. It was a day which was a culmination of six years worth of memories.
It's funny I now smile at the memories and relationships forged during those years. At the time I was living those years out, most of my time was spent "beating myself up" over not completing our family's book of memories, putting a cover on it and distributing it to those who were interested.
I set the bar so high for myself, I knew I could never attain what I was after. So I sat and did nothing with a lot of those memories for a lot of the time. I was setting myself up for failure.
In hindsight, I can see there simply could not have been a better time to release those words and hand them out to our family. I would never have believed it, if someone had told me "there would be a better time" halfway through my journey.
I set a date, a place and a time for our family to congregate in a stress-free, worry-free environment. We stayed at Cedar Lodge, where accommodations, meals and beverages were part of the package price. There was room for visiting, for the kids to play and for people to spread out, mingle and even just sit back and take in the view.
It was an extravagant idea and I honestly thought only a handful of people would be interested in coming. As it turned out, almost seventy family members chose to attend this little event I created in my mind eight months prior.
Yes, one quiet Sunday as I sat still in my little room-with-a-door, nestled in among five years worth of memory collecting, with a family who I had come to know within my heart and soul, there was a little voice which whispered "If you invite them, they will come..."
I needed something to push me to complete our family book project. I needed a date. One week, to the day, after I sent out the email to our family we had our accommodations booked, the deposit was made and we were committed.
I had the date, place and time I needed. All I had to do was "write a book" as we awaited our date.
Well, as they say, the rest is history. The weekend will go down in my own personal history as one of the highlights of my life. I completed what I started. I fulfilled a dream of getting to know Dad's brothers. This courage was fuelled by compiling my mom's family's memories (and getting to know her sisters so much better in the process of doing so), putting a cover on them and "calling it a book" the year prior to starting Dad's book.
It took me almost fifty four years to get there, but I finally came to believe that I actually belonged to this family of mine. I found my roots. The culmination of those years was wrapped up in that room, that weekend and that book. I was entrenched in memories, stories, emotions and a sense of belonging. It was intoxicating.
I felt I had found my purpose to living my life. I was a part of a whole. I added something of value to our family unit. I found myself, my roots and my sense of purpose along the way.
It is hard to come down from a cloud so high. So I stayed and floated for a while. As I wafted, life continued to go on.
My uncle, who was instrumental in helping me compile the memories for our book, was going through a lot at the time our family was reunioning. It has taken the better part of the past year for him to regain his own sense of himself, belonging and just putting one foot in front of the other and moving on. I mailed him his copy of our book so he would be the first person in our family to hold our treasure. I did so, believing he would be able to attend our reunion a few days later. But I mailed it off anyway. It was crucial to me that he was the first person to hold our book in his hands. I am so glad I followed through with what my instincts told me to do.
My uncle tells me he held onto that book and carried it with him through those impossibly hard days, weeks and months that followed. When the ground beneath his feet was shaking, unsteady and not solid enough to hold the weight of all he was carrying, he could literally hold his family in hands.
As my uncle healed, other family members faced their own challenges. My mind wanders to the battles one cousin is still battling, the loss of another cousin's child and the battles that were won along the way. It is a blessing to care so much that you can feel the pain in your own heart when another person is suffering.
We had a fun-filled and joyous reunion this past summer. We met again at a funeral last weekend. It is so much better to gather for no reason than it is to attend a funeral. The family ties which were forged at a time while we were collecting, making memories and reunioning made it feel easier to support a family member in their time of great loss.
It is harder to live a year like the past year I have lived. I have lost my sense of purpose and belonging. I feel like I'm still wafting on that cloud and unsure where to land. I've lost my drive, my focus and sense of self.
Yet when I look back on this past year I feel the quiet and almost invisible thread which has tied me to family, my roots and the essence of who I am. I am more comfortable with a quiet presence. It is who I am.
I am feeling lost and weary. I don't have the energy (or courage) to set a date, a place and a time these days. I don't have a dream or a purpose right now. I'm still wafting. One year later...