Since signing up for a three-month subscription to Ancestry.com, I have become obsessed.
And I have endlessly researched for hours upon hours discovering family member after family member; mostly deceased.
Last week as I slogged through the census, birth, baptism and marriage documents of long-lost and largely unknown family, there was a click option which invited me to:
Find others who are researching (X person) in public Member Trees.
When I clicked on the link, I came upon several Family Trees created by Others. It was an odd exercise because I had to assume that the “Others” were more than likely all related to me in one way or another.
And then I came upon an “Other” that raised the hair on my arms.
My estranged mother.
I clicked on my mom’s name and was informed that she had logged on one month ago.
One month ago meant that she was still alive. Sadly, I hadn’t been sure about that.
I can’t begin to fully explain all of the emotions that consumed me.
Relief. Regret. Sorrow. Anguish. Depression. Remorse. Fear. Melancholy. Fatigue.
Grief. Overwhelming, agonizing and unsolvable grief.
Hope. Pure, naked and fragile hope.
And I swore to myself that I would tell no one of my heart-rending discovery. But I have kept my grief and sorrow a secret long enough. Plus, our time is clearly running out.
In the right-hand corner near her name was a clickable link that made my heart pound:
Privately and conveniently contact others researching your family through the message center.
It was a pathetic and grief-stricken aha moment.
While I endlessly searched Ancestry.com for any and all deceased connections, my beloved mother was alive and well and just a message center click away.
I felt painfully conflicted.
I had all but accepted our catastrophic finality.
And yet I now had this glimmer of hope.
I still had time to act. But did I have the courage? Would I be able to handle the probability of rejection?
And what if I didn’t act? Would I regret my inaction for the rest of my motherless life?
I prayed to God for a sign as I logged off the Ancestry site.
The next day, while organizing a pile of old manuscripts, I found a handwritten bundle of my French grandmother’s recipes with a title page that read: “Tu Me Manques.”
Below are the notes to myself that were scribbled under the proposed title of my recipe book:
Tu Me Manques seems the perfect name for my book of Mammy’s recipes. The literal French translation, “You are missing from me” sums up my sentiments perfectly. Mammy is forever missing from me, but her recipes are her legacy, and now mine.
But nowhere in this phrase is the actual word “from” so can I assume that “from” comes from “me” in tu ME manques? And is it manque or manques? I have made the assumption from my research there is an “s” at the end but really, I have no clue. This is something I will need to find out.
Ironically, the word “manquer” is similar to “manco,” which in Spanish is a person who lacks a limb.
In any case, this is how I feel. Like I am missing a limb. I choose to use the word “miss” to describe Mammy in the sense of “to lack.” As if she were a body part of mine, and now that she is gone I lack (miss) that part. That body part is missing from me.
I’m sorry if none of this makes any sense. But I’m not sorry that I found this phrase. It almost makes my grief explainable.
It almost makes my grief explainable.
I took my recipe book notes as God’s sign. Perhaps it was a stretch. I can’t really say.
I do know that my own words written many years ago by a much younger me to a now older me, provided courage, and hope. And helped to assuage my grief.
So at the end of last week, I went back onto Ancestry.com and bravely clicked the message center link.
I filled in the subject line: Tu Me Manques
Next, I wrote the following message: You’re missing from me mom.
And then I clicked “Send.”
As I watched the word “Send” morph into “Sent,” a flurry of thoughts swirled around in my head, but none of them had anything to do with regret.
My long lost mom had logged onto Ancestry.com a month ago.
That knowledge gave me unbounded comfort.
And maybe she would never log on again.
But no matter what, I had written what until recently would have been unthinkable.
You’re missing from me mom.
No more regrets. Only hope.
It is Mother’s Day tomorrow, and I am courageously managing the grief that inevitably sweeps over me every year at this time.
I just went on Ancestry.com and clicked onto Family Trees created by Others and then clicked my mother’s Family Tree.
Her name appeared. Just the pink silhouette vector marking her existence gave me peace, and a calming solace I haven’t felt since we said goodbye eighteen years ago. I didn’t know back then that I would never see or hear from her again.
And then next to her name was a notification that she had logged on five days ago.
I felt no pain, no grief. Just joy. And love. Big love.
I prayerfully clicked onto my Message Center.