Monday, 19 January 2009

A life worth living

I have spend the weekend with my wider family. While staying at my mother's house, my mum showed me a huge family tree drawn up by a geneologist to allocate the inhertitance left by a relative. We also took the opportunity to begin to go through the huge drawer of photos, a bedlam of snapshots from the last century. This led on to mum digging out a list she has of my father's descendants, going back 16 generations before him to John Foys, born about 1435 in Horsham.
So many people to whom I am connected. Glimpses of lives led: Great-Great Aunt Annie who lost five children in infancy and a 15-year-old son in the flu epidemic of 1918 and Great-Great Aunt Edie who died in her thirties without husband or children, her page of the family tree showing her name alone.
There was a whole set of photos of my dad as an angelic toddler with his glamorous mother and an Airedale terried named Chuggy-Chew. A wedding photo showing the laughing newly-weds sharing a private joke, a gust of wind lifting the dress just enough to reveal daring heels on sparkling shoes. A three-year old boy building sandcastles, smiling at the camera. On the back of the photo is written his name and the inscription "Blackpool, a few days before he died."
All this is sitting deep inside me, an undigested weight. My life in the context of others. The faces of people who didn't know what the future, now the past, held for them. I am left wondering what their hopes and dreams and fears were and whether they felt their lives were of worth, whether they felt fulfilled. And wondering, where is my life going? What will I leave? What feelings will my face on a photo in forty or eighty years time invoke?

2 comments:

Kathy Grubb said...

This is amazing! Ancestral records to 1430?????
The furthest I can go back is about 1880 and then it gets lost in an Indian and Immigrant mess. This is a treasure that few people can claim (and certainly very few Americans!)

Jane D said...

This sounds like a very big event in your life Gaynor - I hope you are able to ponder positively on it. Seeing your life/world in a bigger picture can have the effect of making you feel very small but I am finding it making me very significant as well!