I wonder if it would be appropriate to ask for a moment of silence. I’m never sure what the correct procedure is for these occasions. I’m feeling a sense of loss today. It was so unexpected, so unforeseen. You see, today a lifelong illusion died for me. My mother’s family has spoken for years of their heritage, their bloodline and a rumored participant in the family history. My maternal grandmother was born into the Lee family. The family story for some time has been of the direct relationship to General Robert E. Lee, the famous leader of the Army of the Confederacy. Truth be told, I rather enjoyed the thought that I might be a direct descendant of such a great and respected leader. Regardless of your background, whether from the North or the South, the historical record of this man is one of an impeccably upright man, a man of character. I would have been proud to be heir to that fine tradition. Alas, I have at last been disillusioned.
I wasn’t looking for the truth today. I was simply looking for a cousin on Facebook. Not finding him listed there, I took my search to the wider net cast by Google. How was I to know that the lifelong source of my childhood daydreams and adult pride in heritage was going to be scuttled – shipwrecked with the click of a button? I merely clicked on a result in my search for my cousin and was taken, unsuspecting, to a genealogy of my maternal family lineage. Imagine my shock at seeing my own name listed first on the page I was directed to, along with brothers, children, cousins, and aunts and uncles. Excitedly, I went back, back, back through the pages of the lineage of my Mom and her siblings, great aunts, grandparents, and great grandparents. The list ended with a fellow named James “Bud” Lee of North Carolina, born in the mid 1700’s. Nary a mention of the famous man…Not a single reference to him at all.
Oh, he can be found if one were to follow the lineage back a generation or two and then trace a different branch on down through the Virginia Lees. He was a very distant relative of my ancestor, James “Bud”, but it could hardly be said that his blood is coursing through my veins. The death of my illusion is complete.
It’s not an earth shattering discovery. I have known for years that it was not certain, even possibly unlikely, that the great man resided in the same family tree with me. That said, it’s easy when you want something to be true, to simply put your fingers in your ears when there is a hint that it may not be so and hum at the top of your lungs. It was an intriguing fantasy, which now will have to be cast away. The reality is that this fantasy was never a guiding light for my life choices.
So, no moment of silence; no time of reflection. The daydreams will dissipate into the ether, nice while they lasted. I have come to realize that, although family and history are an important part of who we are, they are not what determines who we will be. I have seen people overcome tragic family circumstances to become incredibly influential and upright individuals. Conversely, I have also known individuals who have failed miserably in becoming honorable human beings, while their parents were unassailable in their integrity. It’s up to each of us to determine, and have the discipline to become, the persons our God wants us to be. Our family history cannot walk the pathway, nor live out the adventure which is put in front of us. We have to do that daily.
I’m also struck by this immutable fact, made clear by my unexpected discovery today; Truth will be made known, whether we are seeking it or not. Although sometimes it doesn’t seem that way to us, eventually all will be laid open for everyone to see. It may not come in the time frame we anticipate or desire, but lies cannot forever hide truth. In a way, instead of being disappointed by this, I’m encouraged. It seems to me that knowing a thing is false is better than believing mistakenly that it is true.
Of course, this situation also lends a little credence to my father’s position on the family legend that one of his ancestors was sent to this country as an envoy of the Queen of England. To hear him tell it, the guy was actually a horse thief, and the Queen banished him to the Colonies to rid England of him. I’m not sure that I want to know the facts in this one either. Both stories hold their own appeal. I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice. I’ll let you know if that mystery ever gets solved.
“Truth will come to light…in the end, truth will out.”
(The Merchant of Venice~William Shakespeare)
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”