Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Those who came before

My mom and I planted flowers at our relatives’ graves today. We do this every year around Memorial Day to honor family. I can’t always say I’ve gotten a lot out of the experience, to be honest. Going to the cemetery where my dad and paternal grandfather are buried draws forth emotion, but the rest of the relatives passed away long before I was born..before my parents were even married. Some of them are so rarely spoken of. I’ve heard stories here and there, but I never knew them and my interest in their lives feels like a detached interest.

Would I feel a deeper connection to my ancestry if I were a biological child? If my dad’s ancestors back in Wales ever imagined what their future generations would be like, I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t have pictured a Korean baby being attached to the family tree! When I think of ancestry, my mind drifts not to Wales or my mom’s German roots, but to Korea. There, I feel, is where my history lies, even if I left at six months and have never sought out birth family. There are people living in Korea who share my blood, who share physical traits, maybe even personality traits. We may not know each other, but generations eventually led to them and to me. In that way, I feel we are connected. To think of them makes the reality of what is happening between North and South even harder to face. How many ancestors already died in this civil conflict? And what, exactly, is in store for the living? I know these people even less than the ones whose graves I rinsed off with water today, yet something draws me more strongly to them..

In the midst of this confusion, one thing remains true: I love my family with all my heart. I genuinely appreciate hearing stories of their ancestors. After all, the people I love so much wouldn't be in my life without the generations that came before! But I feel as though I will never be able to claim these ancestors as my own. Still, I am glad for this ritual of remembrance to share with my mom, even if she is the only one of us who can remember.


  1. Have you ever thought about setting up a little altar for the ancestors you've never met? One little girl I work with is half Korean. She's doing a research paper on Korea and we were looking at a book earlier in which a Korean family (Buddhist) tended their family shrine. I know you're not Buddhist but it could be something to think about.

  2. That's an interesting idea. I'm not sure if it will bring me closer to what I'm seeking, but it's certainly worth a try! Thank you for the suggestion.