Have you ever felt connected to someone you really didn’t know? When you hear their name or read something about them, an electric link reverberates deep within your soul. You know you know them without really knowing them. They become a heroine to you – solidifying your sense of family, faith and foundation.
My great Aunt Anna is that connection for me and she also is my faith heroine. The older I get, the more I see segments of her life, her ongoing DNA circling within me, leaving its mark.
Anna was born in 1883 and died in 1967 when I was a flippant couldn’t care less about the older generation/wrapped up in my own world teenager. All I remember of her is an old lady with gray hair who hobbled around her home in Clearwater Florida. And to think I was named after her too! My middle name is Anne.
Later I became curious about who she was since I was her namesake. That is when a faint echo in my spirit began to grow louder with each connection. A long linking thread united Aunt Anna and me.
Aunt Anna earned her PhD in Theology from Columbia in the 1930s. She worked for the international YWCA, traveling to China and Japan as a missionary. She wrote three books – yes I have all of them – two published, one written but never printed.
Her dissertation was about the German mystics in the middle ages. She learned from these Catholic spiritual giants and wrote about them with a Lutheran point of view.
She kept a journal – for 60 plus years. Yes I have all of them except one lost covering about 5 years.
I have her passports showing her world travels, including those stamped with swastikas from the 1930s. During this time, she also worked for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation as an ambassador working for peace.
Her worn well-read prayer book sits next to my favorite bible.
The more I learn about her, the more my admiration grows. Her deep faith, rooted in history, mysticism and a willingness to learn from others, not of her own denomination. Her love of travel, being open to new cultures and appreciating their gifts and potentials. Her desire to communicate through words, personal and public. Her service to God and to others.
As I age, I see myself in her life – a life of faith, a love of words and a curiosity to explore history. She lives in me when I write and speak about God and serve others as children of God. I often wondered where this tinge of pacifism that dwells inside of me originates and now believe its roots come from her.
And the journal keeping – my ongoing clarification of my spiritual walk, my recording of verses and quotes that guide me, my deep need to put my journey into words – all stem from her.
I think learning more about a family member like this grounds me and helps me to know who I am. Ohh, do I wish I had paid closer attention to her when I was young. Imagine the conversations and stories she could have shared.
And the thread continues – I see a love of words and hints of someday-I-may-write from my own children. I hear my great niece in also interesting in writing.
Roots. Legacy. Grounded in faith. Deep undeniable DNA connecting generations. Our lives transformed and developed by the heroes and heroines of our heritage.
Who in your family do you easily identify with? How have they passed on faith to you?