Look deeply into the palm of your hand…

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk, activist and writer

I have been communicating of late with my cousin’s daughter. The subject of our communication is family history. She is travelling to Ireland and hopes to connect with some long lost family members. Through her I have found out about people I did not know existed. I have found other names that have some claim on my own. The whole process is very exciting and I have been helping her as best I can.

Family Tree

She is scanning documents as she finds them and sending them to me. As these birth certificates and marriage licences arrive, I stare at them and think about these people who have a connection to me. These people who I do not know, who I never met but whose genes I carry and whose genes I have perpetuated. These people whose blood flows through my veins.

I wonder if they ever thought about me, their future great, great, great grandaughter. I wonder if they can see me. I hope they can. I wonder if they laugh at the things we share, the little hints of themselves that they see in me. Having experienced an adoption reunion, I am certain they have written on me in the same way I have written on my son.

I miss these people that I never knew. I found out during this search of my cousins that my mother never met her grandparents. They lived in England and you just didn’t travel that easily back then. The same with my father. His father was also an immigrant whose name was anglicized when he joined the British Army to fight in World War I. No one in the family is even sure what the original name was. My father too had no extended family around when he was growing up.

It makes you wonder about the threads that are their between people who share the same blood. When I first met my son, I would have sworn I could actually see strings of light, bonds knitting, flowing between the two of us.

Graveyard Wolfe Island

I have hesitated to do a post about all this because I know so many people are fighting hard just to get access to Step 1 in this process, their own birth certificates.

I have the documents my cousin sent me on my itouch so I can look at them whenever and wherever I want. It just occurs to me I am holding them, the birth and death and marriage certificates – in the palm of my hand.

I hope the same for everyone someday.



I took the picture of the house with the red tree in front on my way to the adoption conference in Boston. It’s in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Wolfe Island is situated where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario very close to the US/Canada border.


3 Responses to Look deeply into the palm of your hand…

  1. maryanne says:

    Very moving. My parents never knew any of their grandparents, who stayed behind in Ireland and Poland. They did not really know much about them either, I think because it was too painful for the generation who came here to talk about those they left. My grandparents never saw their parents again after they came to America in their later teens and early 20s. They were too poor to travel, and an ocean lay between them.

    Going to the museum at Ellis Island I was really struck by the huge amount of separation and dislocation in immigrant families. Yes, they gained freedom and opportunities, but lost so much as well. As a mother who surrendered, I could relate to that loss.

    I went to Ireland once, and met my Dad’s relatives who still live on the farm that my grandfather came from. There was real magic in being there, and yes, a sense of connection. I love your image of “strings of light between the two of you” when you met your son. I felt something like that as well.

  2. maybe says:

    “I miss these people that I never knew.”

    Me, too. Reseaching the family tree erases the fear that I am alone; it makes me feel utterly connected to a people who have existed throught the ages. I wish I could have met them and known them as they went about their lives. I feel their imprint on my soul.

    Why is adoption the only social-system in the world that seeks to deny this?

  3. Von says:

    Lovely post, so pleased for you!

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