I expected to feel a connection. I’d gone as far as to hope I might have a vision, ever-so-brief, from my ancestor’s time. I was standing in the ruins of the church where my great-great-great grandparents were married on the 180th anniversary of their marriage. I should’ve been feeling something. And in fairness, I was. I felt happy – content to finally be there, having made the trip across the ocean from Canada just the night before. Curious to explore the church ruins and the surrounding village. And lucky – to have such an incredible opportunity. But I wanted more than happy, more than curious, and more than lucky. I was going more for awestruck, blown-away, and in an odd sort of way, complete. Finally knowing that this particular branch of my family tree came from County Cavan, Ireland had been quite mind-blowing itself. Standing in the exact place where they had once stood – should’ve been even more so.
I took pictures, many pictures. I observed the ruins from every possible vantage point. I walked the streets of the small town. And I was still…happy. I stayed there in a small hotel with my husband and some of his family. There we ate, we drank, and finally we slept – all happily. I accepted that happy was good enough.
Little did I know that the next day had an entirely different experience in store. My great-great-great grandparents – according to their parish marriage record – had been married in her parish, not his. But the record had been kind enough to list his parish as an even more rural church only a few miles down the road. (I use the term road somewhat loosely as the road to his parish church was windy, narrow – even by Irish standards – and had a nice patch of grass growing down the middle). And according to the baptismal record of their eldest child, this was their parish after their marriage. So it only made sense to see it as well.
I knew the way. I accept this makes no sense and I welcome your skepticism, but despite not having a reliable map of the area, I simply knew the way. My instinct, combined with some entertaining if not particularly helpful directions from a few locals, eventually led us there. The church truly was in the middle of nowhere – and I mean that in the best possible way. Upon exiting the car, we heard not a sound. The sun, as if awaiting its cue, broke through the clouds. I felt something. A whole lot of something. An overwhelming something.
My connection, my sense of coming home, had apparently been patiently awaiting my arrival. I wandered the churchyard, awestruck at the beauty of this place. The churchyard meandered on for a considerable distance and I eventually found myself overlooking a lake, three high crosses standing watch over the water below. A horse somewhere in the distance neighed its greeting. I could not have been further from where I grew up, but there I was, finally home – where I was from.
It was only with considerable effort that I eventually left. But I left a different person. I left as a person that belonged somewhere, that came from somewhere, that connected with somewhere. And I knew, even then, that I’d be back.
A year from now I plan on taking my big brother there. I want him to see it, and if we’re lucky, to feel the same connection. I want him to know where we’re from. I cannot wait.