Here in the Northeast, Mother Nature has given our precious trees a serious haircut. The devastation is widespread and heartbreaking to see, but I know that in time, we will recover.
The premature winter storm and the recent death of my last surviving aunt on my mother's side has me contemplating my past, my present, and my future, and how they are intertwined.
The increased frequency of freak storms the past few years lends to the theory that climate change is here to stay and will likely only get worse--a grim prediction, but one founded on common sense and intuition as much as scientific data. Millions of Massachusettes and Connecticut residents experienced first hand how dependent we have become on the comforts of modern technology. Without electricity and phone service, and with rationed gasoline supplies and no internet, they were virtually dead in the water. If not for shelters, or friends and family members who so graciously offered to share the comforts of a shower, a warm bed, and a hot meal, many more people's lives would have been lost to cold and hunger than the few sad deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from people trying to warm their homes with propane heaters and no ventilation.
When I got word this week that my aunt Rita had died (of old age, and unrelated to weather), what struck me most in her passing was that she was the last of her generation from my mother's family. Both of my mother's parents died years ago, and she had lost both of her brothers before she died herself at the age of fifty. My mother's two remaining sisters lived on until my aunt Lillian died a few years ago at ninety, and then aunt Rita, a woman well into her eighties passed this week. Being the youngest of my siblings I didn't have the same relationship with, or memories of my aunt as they did. I remember she was very proud of my skating accomplishments when I was a kid, but because of time, distance, her mental illness and simply the business of life, I hadn't spent much time with her over the years--an irrevocable loss to be sure.
As in all of life there are lessons to be learned.
1) Even the mighty oak can be felled in the span of a moment. Change is inevitable and we must learn to adapt, work together and help one another or we will surely parish. As Jack Shephard from "Lost" would say "We have to stand together or die alone."
2) We only get this one life to know and embrace the family we have, so don't waste time on pettiness or be so caught up in business that we miss a chance to know someone special. Every person in your family (good or bad)has the opportunity to enrich your life if you let them. And even more importantly, we have a chance to enrich theirs.
3) Finally, what I gather from this crazy week is that our future is linked to our past and we should never forget our ancestors and what they have taught us. From the pilgrims who settled our shores and endured the brutality of nature, we learn patience, endurance, and ingenuity. From the early pioneers who crossed this great country and conquered the elements to survive, we learn courage and perseverence. Our ancestors, no matter who they were, have left us a legacy worth preserving. The only way we will survive an uncertain future is to make sure to teach our children the lessons of our family tree so that the next generation may benefit from their experience and so that our history is not lost.
What has your family tree taught you?