On December 21, 1968 Apollo 8 was launched into space.
This would be the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit. The astronauts were able to see the far side of the moon, orbiting it 10 times. Finally, mankind’s longing to reach space and see the moon up close and personal had come to fruition. But an amazing
thing happened along the way. Once the astronauts entered space, they could not stop looking back, gazing at planet Earth. Their desire to look upon where they had come from became more powerful than looking ahead to where they had not yet been. It became such an overwhelming desire that they named it Earth Gazing.
In our youth and in our quest for new and exciting things, we propel forward with great passion and excitement, hoping to discover new worlds but then, we hit a certain place where we realize that where we've come from is just as amazing and awe inspiring as where we are going.
I am always searching for new experiences, creating new things and trying to discover new worlds but a year and a half ago I realized that my personal history is just as fascinating as the unknown that lies ahead.
I guess I have reached a place where, as I float among the years of my life, I have decided to turn and look back. It is addictive. I cannot stop gazing into the history of me. This is not narcissistic; it’s a natural human desire, to feel a part of something bigger.
I have always told personal/family stories, it’s how I make my living, but a year and a half ago I decided to start digging into my family history. Using online resources, Family Search and Ancestry.com, I started to uncover information, documents, and pictures that helped me see the whole picture of where I come from.
One hour turned into two hours turned into 8 hours turned into a yearlong project and now, an ongoing expedition. I can’t stop. I've uncovered pictures of my great, great grandfather. I've found documentation of my grandmothers addresses, which gave me a map of her life. I've found my great grandfathers marriage certificate, my grandmothers marriage certificate and...her divorce records. I learned about aunts and uncles and I learned things about my mom and dad. Slowly, my whole world is coming into focus.
Doing this family research led to some deep and meaningful conversations with my parents. They are at the time of life when all they do is look back. When I started sharing with them what I found, they sounded young again…thirsty for information. No matter how many times I called and told them about the latest family puzzle piece I had found, they wanted more.
How sad it is that I was in my late 40’s and my parents in their late 70’s when we began this journey. I wish we had started when I was younger.
Recently Parade Magazine had an article titled, The Secrets to a Happy Family.
When a team of psychologists measured children’s resilience, they found that the kids who knew the most about their family history were best able to handle stress. The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. The reason: These children have a strong sense of “ inter-generational self”—they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows.
I wonder if that is what the astronauts were feeling. We all know we are a part of something bigger, but they actually got to gaze on it.
Your family knows they belong to something bigger, but knowing it and actually hearing about it…seeing it, are two very different things.
Whether you share your family history by doing genealogy/family research or by sharing family stories at the dinner table…who cares? Just do it. Better yet, do both. Here is the best part; your family isn't looking for fairy tale endings. Share with them the good, the bad and the ugly. It will help them through their own good, bad and ugly times. Let them gaze upon where they came from.
The main word in history is story. Share your stories. You were designed to.