My grandfather’s grave is right next to the marker you can see.
“Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, “He fought so hard.” And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.”
― Sally Brampton, Shoot The Damn Dog: A Memoir Of Depression
My dad’s father, my grandfather, committed suicide in 1936 during the Depression. I only had tiny fragments of the story because people didn’t talk about that sort of thing when I was young. Because I never knew him and had no connection to a memory, his memory faded for me.
Fast forward 76 years…
One afternoon I got an email from my older brother, Jim. It was titled ” Please read the attached document”. It looked official and important. When I opened the document, it wasn’t really a document but a note that could have been sent in the body of the email.
It read “Dear Dennis, Katelyn and Melanie,
After a long search, I located and visited the grave of James William Berry, our grandfather. As you are aware we know very little about him since he was never talked about….He died at his own hands in 1936. When I found his grave I discovered that it is unmarked. He was apparently considered and indigent and the county paid for the cemetery plot. I find the fact that he is in an unmarked grave very disturbing. I am fairly certain that I am the only person to visit his grave in the 76 years since he died!”…it goes on. At the end he asked if we would be willing to pitch in to purchase a grave stone.
I was compelled to do something and so were my other siblings, so with no hesitation, we all dove in!
Like my brother once said, ” we have never been confused for the Waltons”, and in fact there has been a lot of disconnection in our family. For 11 years my brother Dennis and I did not speak to each other or see each other. I won’t go into the details of that but to say we made an attempt to connect when my mother turned 80, about 5 years ago, but it didn’t really go anywhere and when we saw each other it was uncomfortable. I see my sister Melanie on Christmas Eve each year and maybe once in between and I rarely see my brother Jim. To say we aren’t close would be an understatement, and that is what makes what is happening now so profound.
As I read the “document” I felt the beginnings of something unraveling inside of me.
Thus began a long series of emails between myself and my three siblings that went from very superficial to open discussions, moving to emails between my brother Dennis and I that plummeted the depths of honesty and emotion and pushing me to release my karmic issue once and for all.
The morning after I got the first email from my brother Jim, I woke up with the notion that maybe we carried ancestral karma in our bloodline and possibly my family had been effected by this all of these years. I found many references to karma of the ancestors that helped me gain the understanding.
The word karma means cause and effect. There is no good or bad karma, you just play the same game again over and over until you get it right and the issue is resolved and brought back into balance. This is why we attract the same circumstances over and over. This is our soul’s way of learning the lessons we need to learn.
Many of us believe in re-incarnation and past lives, there are also those that believe our karma can be passed down the bloodline from generation to generation, through the mother to the child, via the mitochondria DNA (female DNA). It is thought that many of our problems in this life are linked to our ancestral past; a direct cause of unresolved issues began by our former relatives. Our unresolved problems can be visualized like a blocked pipe or cluttered tunnel spanning back through the years into our ancestral past, without the proper cleansing we could be dumping our problems (and our ancestor’s problems) onto our offspring. From what I read trauma experienced by ancestors has a much stronger impact on future generations.
I have three siblings that I don’t even know because each of us played out our own version of this karmic spin. And the way we played never fit together to create a connection. It was complicated by the unfortunate drowning death of my brother, Patrick, when I was 17 and he was 18. This event added another twist to the spin and none of us pulled out of it enough to connect with each other.
I have done over 25 years worth of personal work and there was an issue that I couldn’t quite resolve. It got to the point where I could consciously watch myself acting it out. Triggers were subtle. As I plunged into this unraveling family secret I found myself getting insight into the issue that I have carried with me, and couldn’t find resolution for and where it came from. It now makes sense why I couldn’t resolve it through other methods.
One afternoon this week we all met for lunch to piece together what we had discovered about my grandfather’s story. Putting the puzzle together has changed me, but more than that the way it is re-uniting my family is even more amazing. Little does my grandfather know, or maybe he does, that we have discovered his unmarked grave, researched his family history and that is bringing us back together as a family. The karmic threads that have run through each of us from a grandfather we never knew is profound.
Our lunch stretched out over 3 hours and after lunch we went to the cemetery, picked out the gravestone and visited grandpa’s grave. When the gravestone arrives we are going to give you a proper burial and have a wonderful funeral.
Between the stream of emails (I believe there are over 200 right now) and growing intimacy between my brother and myself and my exploration into the ancestral karma I have been plunging into my psyche in a stunning way. I went in to this as one person and am emerging as someone else.
And so Dear Grandfather, I imagine you felt so alone, and so devalued that you reached the point where you took your life. Well, we are here to tell you that you do have value, that we do care about you and that you are a big part of our family history and who we are today.
…It is never to late to have a funeral!