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Endings and Beginnings

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on February 20, 2020 12:57

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We come and we go. Life begins, life ends. What lessons may we draw? Or are there no lessons, only existence?

My uncle and godfather, my mother's youngest brother, died three weeks ago. It was a sad family reunion, but at the same time a relief. My uncle had had a full life as a farmer, and was a pillar of his family and his society for more than ninety years, but the end was hard. Last weekend we celebrated my mother's 98th birthday, and this weekend her elder sister turns 100.

Driving down for my uncle's memorial service gave me reason to remember the farm my grandfather developed from little more than a piece of scrubland to the center of a thriving agro-business. And I remembered his humble beginnings when, as a boy of thirteen, he had to care for his seven brothers and sisters after their parents had died. We spoke of his love for his cattle, his business integrity, and how he was shunned by relatives for his humble beginnings. 

http://thelatest.com/uploads/tlt/6ac8a49af212b78869844427b987d2e1.jpg
Harald Hardrade, Viking King. www.anglotopia.net

A cousin who is interested in genealogy ran us back through the generations. We discovered French Hugenots, and a German mercenary who left Europe devastated after the Hundred Years' War to seek a future in Africa. We read of an ancestor who hid an escaping noble under the eaves of his homestead after a battle, and was rewarded with a patent by a grateful king. Our knowledgeable cousin also reluctantly told us that we also had a slave in our ancestry; all we knew was that she later converted to Christianity. There was also a nameless woman from the Cape, and another from one of the indigenous tribes (of whom we know even less).

Bengal slave. www.camissapeople.wordpress.com

One line of our ancestry runs back to Harald Hardrade, Viking King, who married a daughter of Prince Yaroslav of Kiev, and through her we descend -- believe it or not -- from King Herod! Yes, the baby killer!

King Herod. Robert Paterson's Weblog

 

Of course it can be said that, after two thousand years, we are all related. So what difference does it make to count kings and slaves among your ancestors? Yet, on the long drive home, I wondered about these men and women who had lived so long ago. What were their hopes and dreams, their disappointments and mistakes?

Meeting across generations: My mother and her latest great-granddaughter, Charlotte. 

Last weekend we baptised my youngest granddaughter and I found myself wondering similar thoughts. What will her life be? How will she judge us, past generations, for destroying the life in our reserves, the fish in the oceans? What are we doing today as normal and correct, that she will judge unacceptable, as we judge our ancestors who were slave owners, as we judge King Herod? What will she think of all that we've achieved -- both bad and good?

 

 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on February 20, 2020 12:57

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The 60: Ancestry.com apologized after some say their ad romanticized slavery and made light of slaves' struggles....

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