Monday, July 23, 2018

In Honor of Those who Paved the Way

     Yesterday I was baking cakes for my husband's birthday and a big family dinner. Waiting for a cake to come out of the oven, I checked my email, and noticed a message from FamilySearch. It said, “You have a pioneer ancestor!” Honestly, my first thought was “Duh!” 

     But then I clicked on the link, because the ancestor they named was John Foster Bennett, my great-grandfather. I was so surprised, and a little curious. I thought he was way too young to be a pioneer. It turned out he was just one year old when he crossed the plains, following a sea voyage from England. It took him and his family 66 days to make the journey. I thought of the empire he eventually built in the Salt Lake Valley, and wondered if his surviving all that hardship as a baby contributed to his later success.

     I scrolled to review the details on his parents, and instead was taken to another pioneer ancestor, Oscar Winters. He is my dad’s great-grandpa. He had gone ahead to build a house for his mother in the Salt Lake Valley, but she died of cholera along the way, and was buried in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska.  Can you imagine Oscar's heartache when he found out his mother didn't survive the journey? Oscar made a second trek a few years later when he went to aid in the rescue of a perishing handcart company.

     I kept scrolling and they kept showing me more and more pioneer ancestors. Many I knew about, and knew their stories well. Others I hadn’t even heard of. 

     The final tally? (Which may not be final at all) I have 20 pioneer ancestors, at least one from every single bloodline. As I read each name, looked at each face, and reviewed the dates, along with some details of their journey, I was overcome with emotion. My heart expanded with love and appreciation. So many have sacrificed so much so that we can be where we are right now. I was flooded with a powerful sense of connection and gratitude that spilled into tears and sobs

     I imagine these amazing people, stalwart examples of courage and commitment, would roll their eyes a little if they saw us continuing to don pioneer bonnets and march around in celebration of their hardships and journeys. Instead, I find it most fitting to walk in the company of others and find joy in the journey, to notice others in distress and run to their aid, to practice tolerance of those with differing views and beliefs rather than turn them away. 
     I think it's important to add that whether you came from this sort of pioneer stock doesn't matter at all. If your ancestors fled a foreign country to escape persecution, they are pioneers. If they immigrated here or anywhere with hope for the future, and more faith than fear, they are pioneers. If they were the first to join the church in their family, their town or their country, they are pioneers. If you yourself did any of these things, you are a pioneer.  And I salute you.

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