I am privileged to have many friends who celebrate and honour their ancestors, many digging back in time to learn about their family members who crossed the seas to arrive in North America: some starting in the states and travelling northbound, others coming directly to Canada.
Often we, my friends and I, wonder about out family who migrated: Who were they? When did they come? Where did they come from? Why did they come? Who came with them? Who did they leave behind?
Time and time again I have heard wonderful stories: retold from grandparents or from old journals and diaries. Last week I heard a story of a man whose family came across the ocean on a boat: his pregnant wife and three children. Baby was born on board; momma died during child birth. Baby died 8 days later. An aunt took care of the children, but when she travelled across the prairies she too died. The children were adopted, and when the father was finally able to join his family they were happily settled in their new families. One son joined him, going from the US to Saskatchewan. This boy’s grandson told the story, speaking of the strength and courage she drew from it when facing hard times in her life.
They arrived in Canada over two hundred years ago.
Yesterday another good friend told a story of her family’s migration story. She spoke of how her family came to Canada to escape troubling times in their nation: they came here for the freedom, with dreams of living in peace.
They came to Canada over one hundred years ago
My friend spoke with love and admiration for those who came before her, giving her the gift of freedom and peace.
The thing about being in Canada, unless we are descendants of First Nations, all of us have a common bond: all of us have a story of when our family migrated to Canada. All of us can gain insight into who we are and gain strength from the courage and hardships endured by knowing these stories… the stories that are known… For many happened so long ago that they are forgotten.
I am grateful to my friends who share these stories, for they have given to me an appreciation and sensitivity to those who migrate to Canada in my lifetime.
I often think of my ancestors, and wonder: who were their friends? Who helped them to find a home, find work, learn the language? I wonder these things with a feeling of endebtedness for all I have. I hope that in some way I am able to show my gratitude by providing support, information and encouragement to those who cross my path and allow me to join them on their journeys of adapting to life in Canada.
I have been able to meet so many wonderful people, and I hope and pray that I will be able to continue to do so from some time to come.
In the mean time, please document your stories. They will be a valuable source of inspiration for those who follow you. And remember, the stories that provide the greatest strength are not about the great achievements, but the hurts challenges and trials. It is the stories of courage and resilience that give great gifts to future generations!
Happy Canada Day!