Category Archives: Family

Celtic Call – Part 2

I have vague memories of sitting with my grandfather at the piano. I don’t remember him playing. But I remember his love for music. The violin was my key to my heritage.

After my dad’s comment that he thought he remembered his father saying we had Irish heritage, I concentrated on following my grandfather’s line. As I added known names of ancestors and searched through each hint, given I discovered the wife of my two times great grandfather. A photo of her headstone was one of the hints. Knowing it was her as it had my grandfather’s name as her husband, I attached it to her profile on my tree. I had no idea how significant this would be in my search to prove my Scottish and Irish roots.

Her name was Athy Olevia Guffin. My two times great grandmother. The mother of my grandfather’s mother.

The day after I attached the photo of her headstone I received a message through ancestry.com from the person who originally posted the photo. His last name was Guffin.   He asked how I was related to Athy Guffin saying her grandfather and his two times great grandfather were first cousins. I replied telling him my connection to her. It was his reply back that brought it all together.

When he replied he shared that he has taught genealogy at the University of Alabama for the past 40 years. He also shared my Athy Guffin’s family tree. The family tree that traces my roots back to Ireland and Scotland. Her great-great grandfather immigrated to the American colonies in 1773. His name in Ireland was McGuffin, but the Mc was dropped when he came to America. His family was Scots-Irish.

Professor Guffin was kind enough to share as much family history with me as he has and offered to help me in my research if I ever need it.

I’m not sure how I knew there was Scottish or Irish blood in my family other than the music. My grandfather whose family line traces back to Ireland instilled a love for music in me. He is the reason I took music lessons as a child. I’m so drawn to the music. Perhaps it’s in hearing the violin that is so prominent in Celtic music. I always associate fiddle/violin music with my grandfather. Turns out the violin was always the key.

I wonder how much of our tastes and things we are drawn to can be traced back to the roots of our heritage. Roots we don’t even know we have.

Have you ever researched your family history? What interesting discoveries have you made?

 

Celtic Call

It was the music. It always stops me. I never dared speak my thoughts aloud. To say I somehow knew the roots of my heritage without knowledge or proof simply by the call of music sounds crazy, mystical.

Celtic music finds my ears and something stirs. Something I cannot name is pricked and I drift to a place I’ve never been.

So I began to wonder if my instincts were true, if what draws me to Celtic sounds is more than just a love of music.

As I started cleaning out closets I found pages of family history my mother began taking down years ago. Previews of the new season of Who Do You Think You Are began. My curiosity could not remain quiet any longer.

My quest to research and map out my ancestry began. (As if I really need another hobby.)

The search becomes a bit addictive as you begin the tracing. Using Ancestry.com I begin building my tree, adding names thanks to my mother’s notes from years ago. Almost immediately census records appear. Piece after piece is added. A small fact of each of their lives now known.

I tell my dad I want to trace our origins back to Europe. I never mention my suspicions of Ireland or Scotland. He seems to suddenly remember his own father mentioning Ireland. Never mentioning my instincts, I keep searching.

I did not have to wait long. Within three days I have confirmation.

And the story of how that confirmation finds its way to me? Well it’s a pretty cool story. One I will share in my next post.

Choosing to Trust


Some stories take time to be shared. Often you have to find a balance when your story is so intertwined with that of someone else. This is one of those and the reason I have been quiet in this space as of late.

She’s been sick most of my life now. Her Chron’s disease diagnosed just before I turned eleven. I don’t really remember a time when my mother wasn’t sick. In many ways I struggle not to let that define me.

In a lot of ways you get used to it. Desensitized maybe. But when that’s almost all you’ve ever known it just is what it is.

But this time was different. This time it wasn’t just her body not wanting to function. It was also her mind.

Symptoms appeared as summer 2011 began. Maybe even before. Symptoms similar to mini strokes, but then the diagnosis came. Cirrhosis of the liver. The latest long term side effect of Chron’s disease, surgeries and drugs that saved her life from the Chron’s 26 years earlier.

Modern medicine can be a wonderful and amazing gift. But many times the effects it can have twenty and thirty years down the road are unknown. So many issues she has struggled with over the years -chemical imbalances, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

And liver disease was the latest for my mother.

As I talked with my sister and dad that Sunday night in February, just two days after my son turned thirteen, something heavy settled on my chest. It was the first time I prayed for a donor. Well, sort of. “If someone is going to die in these awful storms tonight anyway, Lord, please let one be a match.”

How do you pray for something that means someone else has to lose their life? When the miracle you need means heartache and loss for someone else? 

The next day she was admitted to the hospital. There wasn’t much more we could do but wait on a donor. Her window of remaining on the transplant list was closing quickly.

I continued to trust.

Trust. It’s a choice.

When my mother was first diagnosed with liver disease I made a choice. I made the choice that no matter the outcome I would choose to be thankful. Something for which He had been preparing me. I chose to trust in His plan.

I made that choice when her diagnosis first came, before she was even eligible to be placed on the transplant list. I intentionally spoke His words of truth to myself through the long months of waiting for her to be put on the list. Long months of struggling through her confusion as her brain and body were affected by toxins building up in her body. Toxins her liver could no longer filter from her systems. Days where my patience slipped away as I once again paddled upstream through a conversation with her. Conversations where I repeated the same thing for thirty minutes. Her mind caught in a loop, unable to break free. Disease is hard on the victim, but it also frustrates and discourages their families.

So we waited after she was admitted to the hospital. For five days the nurses and doctors caring for her and doing the best they could to ease her pain. As cliché as it sounds, the miracle came at the eleventh hour. A donor. Someone’s life was ending. And they or their family chose to give so others could continue to live.

My mind drifts to the cross when I consider this, but I’ll leave those thoughts for another day.

Would I have been thankful had she not survived long enough to receive a transplant? Would I still have chosen to trust? I hope so. I think so. There comes a point when watching a loved one suffer such unimaginable pain that all you pray for is healing in whatever form that looks like, even if it means complete healing in heaven.

But the choice to trust does not end there. I still have to choose daily to trust. Choosing to trust when the medications frustrate her mind once again. Trusting when the healing and recovery may take just as long as it took for the disease to cause the damage. Choosing to trust that His ways are higher than what we can comprehend.

So I continue to trust even on the days when I don’t feel like it. Because in the end? Trusting is a choice.

Clutter


The thoughts clutter her mind now. Brain damage frustrating a mind once sharp. Words falter somewhere deep inside the recesses unable to push forth.

She chases them in circles, never quite able to form coherently.

Trapped. Cluttered.

And this is the hard part. Not the physical aspects of her diseases as all I’ve known for 29 of my 39 years is her illness. When a physical disease robs their mind and they just aren’t the same. Talking with the same person yet somehow different. Perhaps my intuitive nature extra sensitive to it all.

My impatience showing as her thoughts get trapped in loops scrambled somewhere in her mind. At times, having to parent the parent, being firm and stern if needed. But too often I forget her cluttered mind frustrates her even more than it does me. She knows her mind was sharp in the past, and now she feels helpless.

I should learn from my usually impatient child. So patient and calm with her as the grandmother he has always known seems so different. A child who doesn’t like “going with the flow” so adept at it where she is concerned. Again a moment when parent is taught by the child.

My thoughts wander to how God sees His creation. Does He look at the disease sin has caused in this world and think of it all as clutter? It must frustrate Him, yet he loves patiently. Graciously. Slow to anger. Rich in love. Yet He waits.

The waiting. Yes, it is frustrating as well. Always waiting. On test results. On word from doctors.

So on these days when her mind is trapped and we seem to chase thoughts in circles I pray for grace. While we wait, grace. Grace for my impatience and grace to give. I pray for Him to give me His heart to see. For in the end, that’s all I know to do.

Insane Courage

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He walks up sidewalk through barely familiar doors. I pray for Holy Spirit to wash peace over my soul. New buildings, new routines, new teachers, new classmates. Will he find his classes okay? Will he learn to change for P.E. quickly? Will he lose his things? Will he adjust to 7 classes and 7 new teachers? Will he remember to bring home the right books and what the homework assignments are? I do not worry about him meeting and forming new friendships. He is at ease meeting new people. Confident.

Amidst all the new, though, I know he will be fine. Even knowing this is where God has led, this mother’s heart still feels a bit anxious. Because when those months of prayer and confirmation and direction become living, breathing, and real, there is still a moment of taking deep breaths and dismissing voices that want to steal trust. Voices that want to blur the direction God led.

I see courage as he walks through barely familiar doors.

“All it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage.”

I see insane courage in my son, my little artist, now only a few inches shorter than I and not so little anymore. At twelve years old, realizing something is not working for you and choosing to leave familiar is nothing less than courageous. His heart found courage and chose to be brave.

Knowing God was leading this direction, I prayed He would open his heart even in the smallest way, not wanting to force. Not wanting resentment, I prayed for a pinhole. God opened a dam.

More confirmation of His plan. Manna in the desert.

So I sit, about to have breakfast with a friend, while I wait to pick him up from his first day filled with changes. I wonder how his day will go. Will he remember the new routines tomorrow?

Yes, it takes insane courage to leave behind what feels safe and familiar.

And those with insane courage? Those are the ones God uses to make a difference.

Life: Unmasked