We are in 6th grade this year and studying ancient history and the beginnings of the world’s religions. Ok, our grandchild is in the 6th grade and studying history. However, after learning it myself more than 50 years ago and then learning with my boys, we are now doing it all over again with our grandchild.
I am much older and wiser and know a bit more about Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Our 6th grader is at the age to question belief systems and how they relate to him. He wants to know if it is wrong to learn about the other beliefs. I tell him no. I questioned my basic Baptist beliefs. My preacher grandfather told my mother it was all right to question hers. It’s a normal right of passage.
He asked recently why my beliefs are Christian and not one of the others. My response; underneath all the dogma, all belief systems are similar. He is free to choose which one fits in his life. Christian belief is a choice and must be made freely. He has asked for the “bible” for each one and I will grant his wish.
What does this have to do with family history?
When I found my grandmother’s letters, I was instantly struck by the passage she wrote on January 1, 1919.
“Wm, I am 71 years old this morning and I want to talk to my absent children. What I can and truly hope that when the end of their road is as near is Sight as mine they can Rejoice as I can, that Rest is near.”
Martha Jane was tired. She wanted William to come home but beyond that, there was no fear of death. She had already made peace with her maker. I find that comforting and based on my belief system, know that when I get to Heaven, she will be there to greet me. However, rest was not as near as she thought because she lived another 10 years.
When she passed away, my grandfather wrote on May 30, 1929:
“It was very depressing news of Mother being dead. Yet we all must answer the Summons when it comes.” Grandpa also believed.
Family history is more than dates and times. It is an affirmation of who we are and where we came from. My beliefs tie me to my great grandmother, her sons, my parents, my children, and grandchild. What matters to me is that my beliefs were shared with my earlier ancestors. Many of the Rhea’s were preachers. Many of my mother’s family were preachers. Yet, all of us questioned our beliefs.
This was graphically illustrated when my 2nd cousin sent me the pictures he found. There are picture of my grandfather’s brother, Victor, being baptized in the Clinch River.
He was not a young man. I don’t know why he was baptized so late in life but that’s irrelevant. What counts it that he walked in the same path that I have chosen. While we spend time living our lives, the thread of belief runs deeper than any of us realize. Understanding that allows me to encourage my grandchild to look at the all the belief systems. Whatever he chooses will be right for him, even if he is as old as Victor when he makes his decision. He will know that those who have gone before him will welcome him with opened arms.