Being last one left

Discussion in 'Family of Origin' started by SuZir, Dec 14, 2015.

  1. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    10 days till Christmas.

    In our tradition, drift over from our pagan Yule traditions, family, family tree and remembering the deceased. We may not set feast for the dead while getting out of the house (we just leave some tokens) and while we may leave sauna ready after we are done and even throw little bit water to the stones when leaving, at least we do not ask ghost to come and have a bath any more, nor do we worry if they will approve how we have hold up the farm when they do their yearly inspection, but we have taken the idea and fit it into our Christmas celebrations. So everyone, and I really mean everyone, visits the cemetery or few and lights the candles to tombs of family members. And if we happen to live far from the cemeteries our forefathers are buried, we go to cemetery near to us and light a candle to place dedicated to those who are buried elsewhere.

    This fall my very distant cousin died. He was the last person having my family name. I'm the last one alive who has ever had it. After I will be gone, my family will be officially extinct. It is old family with lots of troubled souls, but also people who achieved a lot. My grandpa was last one to hold the title (one of my ancestors managed to get the hold of a noble title few hundred years ago.) I do not have siblings, neither had my mother, my grandparents did have, but none of those families is alive. I really am only one left.

    I dread the Christmas Eve and the trip to cemeteries. First we will visit graves of my hubby's family and leave our candles among the dozens of others. Then we will go to part many of my family are buried. All along the way almost all the tombs have several or even dozen candles. Then there is this big family tomb of mine. Only totally black part of the whole cemetery (or at least it feels like that - and do remember, I live in the north, it is really dark around here this time of the year.) I carry a big bag full of candles so I can light one to every tomb. It is a long row of stones and while one candle for the tombstone may look more stylish than 20 in front of some others, it also looks depressingly lonely. And I do not even want to consider the other family tomb in other town, that I do not have time to visit during Christmas Eve.

    Hubby tries to say that I should be happy I do not need to argue with anyone on how to take care of the tombs, which flowers to plant on summer and so on, but I can't say it would be worth it.

    At some Christmases I have tried to visit cemetery during the daylight so that difference between my family and others is not so glaring, but again, we have less than 5 hours daylight this time of a year and that isn't that light either. And I actually do have things to do to arrange big family meal to hubby's family, so often it just is dark when we have time to visit the graves.

    And every Christmas it strikes me, how alone I am and how there is no one else who would know where I come from. Anyone who would share that same history. And next thing I know after coming home from the cemetery I will be sitting there, in my own home, as an eternal outsider with all my hubby's extended family (he is one of five siblings) and all the merry go'round with them and their traditions. And even my sons are part of all that (which I did want to. I wanted my children to have a big and close extended family) and I'm only one sticking out.
  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Oh, SuZir.

    It's almost like me and hubby. Only it's me that has the huge family and he has very little... a bit more than you, two branches that still carry the family name, but I doubt there's 100 left in the world(across two continents).

    The biggest part of my side of the family ties to a branch where the name has gone into oblivion. But wherever I go, people who know "us" say... "oh, you're part of the NNN Clan?" My kids have no idea who all these relatives are... I hardly know them. But we run into people and we can trace back the connection really fast.

    You are NOT the only one left. Your sons carry on those family genes, and should be lighting their OWN candles for these relatives of THEIRS. They - and their children - will continue to carry the family heritage. For a minimum, you should be lighting three candles - for you and each son - instead of just one. Hopefully by the time you are gone, they will have their own kids to add to this.

    Just my opinion here but... some of your family traditions should be incorporated... so your kids can hand them down.
  3. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    only thing is: That would be three big bags of candles. There simply are many stones. Practically goes above my feelings, I guess.

    However, I'm sure, or at least I think, that when boys will have their own families and not come to cemetery with me and hubby but on their own timetable, they will visit and light candles also to my side of the family.

    This is tough one. I do agree. And I have tried and to some things I have been able to sneak some of my family's traditions. But the big days like Christmas: There is just so many of hubby's family and they are so big and loud...

    Hubby's siblings divide big holidays between us, spouses' extended families and their nuclear family traditions. We live at the old family home, so our house is the one where we always gather. They all still, in some level, consider this as their home too. Where they all are always welcome during the holidays (and I do not actually want to change it, I chose this.) While I have inherited properties from my family, those are not our homes, but just places (that I mostly rent out) aside of one summer place we use a bit every summer. The time there is most likely the closest we come to observing my family traditions. But time is limited and in some ways spending time with hubby's family is so much more fun. And I too enjoy it. And I love that my kids have big and close extended family they are really connected with. But, but...

    They really are big and loud and overbearing.
  4. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    In a way, I am in that position too, SuZir. My husband's family is very big, very loud, very different in the way they interact with one another. In having no family members there at the celebrations that are mine, I feel somehow an outsider, and lonely, though I also feel such gratitude for having been welcomed and included. For so many years, I could not understand what that feeling was, when I would have expected myself to have been so happy to have been part of the traditional celebration of a large, loving family.

    It was like a dream come true ~ like that dinner I always used to post about. But somehow, during the midst of the celebration, I would experience a kind of piercing loneliness. I was shopping yesterday, and felt that same, piercing, almost physically painful feeling having to do with my mother.

    So I think these feelings do not go away from us.

    I wanted my people, then, and I want my people now. I did not have them, then. I do not have them, now.

    This is an ongoing hurt, then.

    That accounts for the poignancy of the feelings. I have experienced them so many times that I do not fear them. In a way, those feelings are my only interaction with my family, with the lineage and tradition of my family, that I have.


    In the midst of the celebration with D H family, I wanted those faces that looked like mine.

    I felt piggish, sometimes. I was surprised at myself. I thought I should be grateful to be welcomed as an integral part of D H family celebrations and yet, there was that poignant sense of loneliness. I had family, but...they weren't my family.

    The faces around the table were not like my face.

    There is just something about the feel of our people.

    I still long for my people, for those faces, at every holiday celebration. I know people who have that. It is as beautiful as we imagine it to be.

    So, for us, as we go through the holidays, there is an underlying theme of something poignant, of some lonely feeling we cannot identify well enough to address. It has to do with those faces around our tables, and with those we miss. Even if we didn't know them, there should be traditional stories, there should be some form of connection between the family that went before and the family that will carry our lines into the future.

    That is the feeling of it, for me.

    I have always felt that lonely place at the center, even when we had our children at home.

    This helped me:

    I have shared this story before.

    After the holiday is over ~ after the obligations have been met, after the cookies have been baked and the dinners served and the presents opened, once the kids were in bed and D H had gone to sleep and once the house was back in order, I make a fresh coffee. I drink it, with cream, from a cup of thinnest porcelain that belonged to my maternal grandmother.

    And I think about all of us, all the mothers of my line before and since, and what we may have hoped and how it all came to fruition, and I gain something that helps me put my own joys and failures and hopes ~ it helps me feel joined to the continuum that our lives are, whether the connections are solid and loving or disrupted.

    Do you have a cup that belonged to a maternal grandmother, SuZir?

    I will be leaving those porcelain cups, one to my daughter and one, to my son. I will be buying porcelain cups to be given to those coming in the future. I don't know how many, and I don't have the cups yet, but it comforts me to know I will send those things into the future for my descendants.

    It connects me.

    Knowing I would have that time once the holiday had been whatever it was, beautiful or chaotically bad, helped me address that silent place where I was lonely in the midst of celebration with faces that were not like mine. It wasn't that I wasn't grateful for their welcome. I am grateful, still. It emphasizes my loneliness to relish their celebration. This is a form of grief for us. As we go through our traditions, we are grieving. It is happening, at least it is for me, whether we can understand that or not.

    The sense of connection with a maternal grandmother and through her, with them all, that feeling that I was drinking from the same cup she had drunk from, comforts me. That I will send thin porcelain cups into the future connects me.


    I will begin thinking of my family of origin in this way, SuZir.

    Thank you.

    It is difficult to find words to communicate the nature of what we feel. My D H loves me very much, but he cannot empathize with what I describe because his understanding of family does not include the concept of breaking or brokenness mine incorporates.

    D H family argues incessantly about every smallest thing. Flowers, music, who did what and what they should do or should have done and whether one sister cooks the beans badly and the other does it right and on it goes. That is what families do. Every smallest detail of everything affects everybody and everybody has an opinion about all of it and that is what makes them family.

    And that is why I feel outsider very strongly, then.

    I understand the loneliness you describe in placing the candles, SuZir.

    If we can find a way to connect ourselves to those who have gone before, and to those who will come after, we will come through it, I think.

    This is a quote from Maya Angelou:


    I am trying to find for you the Maya Angelou quote about rising for the sake of the sacrifices those who have come before us made, that we might have the lives we have. I cannot find that quote.

    But I found this one:


    Your posting helped clarify these feelings for me, SuZir.

    Thank you.

    Here is something interesting. I have been listening to Christmas music when I can. There is, in many of the pieces, that same sense of poignant aloneness having to do with tradition that we are describing, here. This was surprising to me. We are not alone in our aloneness.

    Isn't that something.

    Here is the song, SuZir.

    Here is another Maya Angelou quote. Maya tells us how to face it, and how to be strong in the face of it.


    Okay. So that wasn't it. I found it beautiful though, and relevant.

    Here is the one I meant:


    I could not find the quote I was looking for, for you.

    I will post it when I can.

  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Cedar, when I was younger, and very good friends (sister like friends) with another young woman who lived across the street and then moved somewhere else close by, we both used to talk about this feeling of isolation ALL T HE TIME. We both felt it, like an empty pit in the middle of our stomachs. We actually described it to one another.

    We called it "the void."
    It w as there even when around tons of people that cared for us. I was unhappily married at the time and she wasn't too happy in her marriage and both of us had had terrible parenting.

    We still talk although we are in different states. Everyone loves her. She has so many peeps. I love her too. I am not as much a magnet for people (except those who seem to need help...I must look like I have a strong shoulder to cry on, and in a way I do), but sometime during my second marriage the void left me. I don't know exactly when it did or why it did. My friend reports the same thing. Both of us had tough childhoods and distant families. My friend was adopted and not to very good parents. She found her birth family and is still very involved with some of them and I know that helped, although there were problems there too. But her void, she says, is gone.

    Even though I know how it feels to be lonely in a crowd, and will never forget, these days, since I am not a people person, I feel more a sense of "I want to go home" than lonely in a crowd. It's much better. With my family of choice, I feel warm and fuzzy.

    I think it helped me that i always questioned that ones identity is tied to ones DNA peeps. I wanted to adopt. I could have had other bio. children, but chose adoption and have no regrets and they are my real heart people (plus Bart and Junior). But I never felt I needed people around me who looked like me. Cedar, we are individuals...not clones of our DNA members. At least, this is how I see it.

    To Suzir and everyone: On another topic covered here, we had NO family traditions. NONE. So with family of choice we made our own and even the grown kids love them.

    Also, my father's name will die with my brother and he cares about that. Neither his only brother or my brother married and had children thus t he end of t he name.

    On my mother's side, we were told almost nothing about my grandmother's family or my grandfather's family. All I know is that Grandfather grew up in foster care and his mother "always thought she was sick." That's it. If he has no siblings, his name already died since his only son married very late and had no children.

    But I wanted you to know both that I understand this and that it can change and I hope it does for you because it's a rotten feelings.

    Hugs and love.

    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015
  6. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    This is beautiful Cedar, Thank you.

    SuZir, you have a lovely tradition. I am far away from my FOO, and Mom is the last of the connected. I suppose the times we live in and distance has changed things. Even my hubs FOO is on a road to disconnect, all of the old Uncles and Aunties that were the glue that held ohana together have passed or are very old. There is a certain sadness in this, we had always made effort to gather, when the call was made.

    I think it is up to us, then, to forge new ties and traditions, to keep the home fires burning.

    I have not gotten into the swing of things and am reinventing an idea of the holidays. I feel the push from the consumeristic side had gotten out of hand. What do we really need? Why has gift giving become so obligatory?

    Perhaps too, holidays become difficult when we have d cs out there struggling.

    Part of being, the last one left is to continue the traditions that have great meaning, and to start new ones for our children to remember.

    I have been thinking on this, of late.

    Thank you for sharing SuZir, it struck a chord with me , too. I am far away from my family, yet surrounded by hubs large family, and there is a disconnect with both.

    I will be talking with my three un-d cs and discuss how to honor the spirit of the holidays and incorporate old traditions while building new traditions.

    Mahalo Suzir,
    Happy Holidays to you and yours
  7. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
    I rise
    Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
    I rise
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise
    I rise
    I rise.

    Maya Angelou

    Is it this Cedar?
  8. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    That is lovely Cedar. There is something similar in lighting those candles. Graves are on the oldest part of the cemetery, which makes it also the quietest one. Wiping the snow off from the names on the stone, placing those candles... It has been done before, countless times, by those who came before me, at the Christmas Eve. And I have every reason to hope there will be someone doing this after me.

    My paternal grandmother, by the way, was one of the hatchlings of this world. One of those who reinvented themselves and appeared from seemingly nowhere. In my culture, where 'coming from somewhere', from the family, from the certain farm or village, is given so much importance, that is both rare and revealing. My dad is a hatchling too, though he has lately reconnected a bit.

    I actually do know the names of her parents and their occupation, official documents can't be hide, but she was one of those, who left it all behind and attached herself to her husband's tradition. I actually didn't know her well, she didn't give much of herself to me or anyone. She always seemed to live for my grandpa, to be very dependent of him. She fussed, and worried and was very proper and timid. It was difficult to even notice her from the shadow of her husband and her daughter, who both were very strong and big personalities. I spent lot of time with my grandparents but I was always grandpa's girl.

    Who my grandmother really was, how she felt, what was going in her mind - those things she never let anyone see. She is one of the mysteries in my family tree.
  9. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    There is a great, joyful tremendous cultural renaissance in Hawaii amongst the younger generations of Kanaka Maoli, who have studied the language and learned the traditions of old.
    These young folk are hard at work cultivating, teaching, and perpetuating the old ways. They have picked up the torch, lit the way for those to come, and brought pride and hope for future generations. They believe wholeheartedly, that those generations before them, set a solid foundation that deserves recognition and a place of honor.
    I believe there will always be someone, who will look to the past, see the value in the old ways and help to continue tradition.
    My children's people were an oral culture, and great care was given to remembering family history and genealogy, in the form of reciting chants, dancing hula and story telling.
    I do believe that those who have come before us, have a great impact on us, as well as those yet to come.
    We may not have recognized it when we were younger, but I think there are those who have taken it upon themselves to be the "torch bearers."

    In this SuZir, you are the torch bearer, the candle lighter, and I believe through your efforts and example, there will be someone who will see the significance and value of this honor.
    Keep on keeping on dear, God bless you for your steadfast commitment, and your watch care.
    In this fast paced quickly evolving world, it is wonderful to know that folks are still making great effort to carry the ways of old, and pass them forward.

    Mahalo nui for sharing
  10. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    No, Leafy. It was about Maya thinking back to her own lineage, to the times of slavery and what it would have meant to those ancestors, male or female, to know that she was courageous today. Maya then branched this into all of our immigrant heritages, into the loneliness and bravery and sacrifice those who came before us made for us. For those who would come. Maya writes to the ancestor, to the grandmother bearing the marks of her struggle and tells her: Here, this is the face you sacrificed for. I was worth it. I am worth it, I pledge to you that I am worth what you paid for me to be as I am.

    Maya touched every chord perfectly.

    I have the quote here somewhere, I think.

    I will find it for us.

    It was beautiful.

  11. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I was thinking this through the Christmas time and noticed that somehow I had left also those of my family's traditions to go, that I did when kids were young and simply abided hubby's traditions. Hubby's family and the lifestyle they have has always been the big attraction for me. Actually part of what I fell in love in him so that has not been bad actually. But I decided to force some of my traditions too this year.

    First I told my sons I wanted them home the Sunday night before Christmas and I wanted to play and sing with them. Haven't done that in ages. We actually had a blast. Boys have apparently outgrown the phase there being other kind of musician than playing in rock band or being a rapper was too 'girly.' I think it has been almost a decade when we had that much fun playing together. And Joy's girlfriend seemed to appreciate Joy's playing and singing skills too :wink:

    While the 'main days' and times were out-crowded with hubby's family and their tradition I was able to take some moments to honour my traditions too. It seems losing those was more about me letting them go than anything else. With some concentrated effort I was able to have some of that incorporated to my, and my sons, Christmas again.

    And those candles I mentioned: First time in the longest time I actually wasn't placing my candles to only dark tombstones. Joy spent his Christmas Eve morning with his girlfriend family and they went to graveyard already at the morning and Joy had actually remembered to take couple candles and visit also my family's graves. He hadn't brought a bagful of them so most of the stones went without when I got there with hubby and Ache, but he had lighten a candle for my grandparents and my mother.
  12. SuZir,
    Because both my husband's family and mine have shunned us because we have Aspergers and because our lifestyle doesn't fit into their idea of materialism, we are on our own with our son who is 21. Our son, ironically is the only grandchild to carry the family name. At Christmas time, I feel so much loss of family love. My husband and son don't feel this but I feel it strongly. I feel it on all special days or during health or life crises, but Christmas is particularly worse.

    I have joyful memories of family traditions and times when the violence at home was less and the days were actually happy. I miss the voices and the laughter, the decorating, and the wrapping of packages, Christmas visits, and decorating the family tree, and the making and eating of family traditional foods.

    This Christmas, my heart ached for all of them and all of the traditions. I felt grieved that my son would never know what it felt like or how the feast tasted or the sights, sounds, and smells that were so exhilarating and filled with French tradition. I ached for all of it so much so that I started watching old black and white Christmas movies on Youtube back in October and I'm still searching them out into January. I miss the love and sharing tradition and family memories together so badly.

    I feel lost about this. I carry on all of it in my heart by myself. My husband does the same but with much less sentimentality. The times were so much simpler. The 60s and 70s were to me a happy childhood. There was a lot of violence at home for me, but mostly at Christmas, the joyful spirit would calm it down and instead be centered around gathering together to celebrate in all the different ways of then.

    It's so hard to not have anyone who remembers with me. My siblings are not sentimental like me and they don't communicate with me. I am the one who carries that torch and my mom knew I would be the one so she left me with the last of the keepsake ornaments before she died. This year, I decided to hang them all. In my heart, each one was like your candles on the tomb stones. I am in many ways, the last one. I knew Mom gave me those ornaments because she knew I would be the only one who cared to remember. I think she hoped my son would have his own family and carry on with being the keeper of the family treasures and memories.

    I get scared when I think my son will be all alone when my husband and I die. He will feel our loss so strongly for we have had to be all family relationships to him. At this time, he has no desire to marry and have a family. I have thought about what life for him will be after we're gone - and I worry.

    I try very hard to make our little family Christmas special to us, but in my heart, I always know and feel all those people gone and so much of our heritage lost. I am the only one who cares enough to remember.

    I appreciate your story. I wish I could find a way to capture all of the good from then and somehow give it to my son. But how? So I try to make our time as full of love as possible. I'm not great at it, but I keep trying.
    Yesterday, as I was packing up the ornaments, I found an old collection of Christmas cards tucked in one of the boxes. I opened them to read them and I was moved to tears. The collection (that I had forgotten) were some of the best of the Christmas cards my husband and I had written to each other over 31 years and I had found a few cards from family members we dearly loved who are now long gone.

    I was amazed at what I found written in the cards! It was my own little family's love journey and legacy! I didn't realize that we were writing our own family Christmas legacy for our son, but there it was for him to find!

    It occurred to me that I need to make extra effort in the future to collect all the Christmas cards we write to each other and save them in this box so that one day, when my son pulls out the boxes to decorate, he will find them and remember us and who we were together - the 3 Muskateers!

    I decided yesterday that what I'm going to start doing every year is to hang these cards as part of our decorations on a memory garland. Every year we can look back over these cards and remember our journey as a family. I am also making videos of teaching my son some of the things we made at Christmas time when I was a child. He will always have these.

    So when I ache for the family I lost, I am now trying to turn that energy into building memories for my son. I think it was very wonderful that your son had placed candles on the graves. He remembered.......
  13. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    That was beautiful and poignant gardengirl.
    I love the idea that you are creating some of your very own traditions to pass on to your son.
  14. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I always find the good threads when I have taken my Benadryl to sleep.

    I want to add a few thoughts.

    My son is adopted. His birth parents were dying of AIDS at the time I adopted him. He knows.

    His only way to remember them, I think, is to live as did they. Hopeless. He is walking scarily close to the life they lived. While he does not have HIV he has Hep B which he acquired at birth.

    The ceremonies you speak of, ritualized ways to remember are like a talisman. They help us remember and to keep ourselves safe so as not seek out danger or despair to remember.

    Our families hurt us but they are ours. They are us. As close to us as we will ever have. Especially because we have chosen it, there is an aching, a despair, that we are apart.

    Here please find a poem that was read at the short memorial for my mother. Her name was Esther. My attorney had sent me a handful of poems, all beautiful, written by his Rabbi who would soon die. His name was Rabbi Schulweiss.

    Eulogy For One Remembered

    Not the wisest,
    Not the smartest.
    No t the kindest
    Not the most tactful.
    Not the richest,
    No t the most successful
    No t the tallest, not the bravest
    But my own.

    Thank you, *I had to separate the letters because no matter what I did not changed to occupational therapist.

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  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    We started new traditions with our family, adopted or not. Their legacy is not their birthparents...they never knew them. I know Princess, Sonic and Jumper have good memories of OUR family traditions. Every Easter we still have an Easter Egg hunt for our adult children and they adore it. Been going on all t heir lives, f or example.

    Our own is those we make our own. My mother is not "my own." My sister and brother are not "my own."Nor did our FOO ever have cool traditions. Or any. That left it up to me to create traditions for my true family of choice...

    We can spread our traditions to our adopted kids. When we adopt them they are "our own." They do not have to look to their birthparents for their legacy. But I think we need to let them know that they are now "our own" as much as our DNA connects some people. Not that you didn't. Just that your son probably did enjoy the traditions you showed him.

    He may go back to them if he marries and has a family. His birthparents were pretty much nothing to him...they are not even alive. YOU are the one who matters.

    Hugs and have a serene and peaceful night.
  16. Leafy,
    Thank you! I'm trying. Life is so full of stuff when you don't have extended family. I am always busy filling in all the gaps, mom, grandma, aunt, sister, etc. I have to work with my son every day because he doesn't realize what he's going to lose when he looses us. We're all the family he has.
    Starting this Friday, we start that support group for Aspie young adults. I'm nervous and I'm hoping..... It's another burden, but I'm hoping my son will enjoy it so much that he'll invest in it to make long time friends of common bond.