“Like a sandcastle, all is temporary. Build it, tend it, enjoy it. And when the time comes, let it go.” – Jack Kornfield
In 1807, in a small farming community in Anson County, North Carolina a girl was born that would become my 3rd great-grandmother. Louisa Boggan was one of twelve children. Farming families in Anson county had a lot of children. Farms needed labor, and children were cheap labor as were son and daughter in-laws. Louisa’s family arrived in North Carolina around 1760 from Castle Finn, Ireland along with over 200,000 other Irish citizens who emigrated between 1710 to 1775. Louisa married young, had six children and died not long after her 44th birthday.
I would suspect that none of you that will read this post have any vested interest in the life of Louisa Boggan. But my father does, his three children do, and his six grandchildren do as well. Without the short and momentary life of Louisa Boggan none of these ten people would exist today.
When Jack Kornfield says that “all is temporary” this includes me and you. At 55 years old it is much easier for me to accept this certainty than it was at 25. Our lives are much like the sandcastles Mr. Kornfield describes, we build them, tend them, enjoy them and then let them go but rarely do we let them go without a fight.
I have written a lot about my love of genealogy. Researching and working on my family tree gives me time to reflect on who I am, where I come from, and where we have been. It is also a constant reminder of how temporary and fragile our existence truly is. As I go through the roster of my ancestors I am always struck by how young many of them were when they died. 150 years ago, sixty was old but at sixty most had already lived a lifetime. Louisa got married at 15, and had seven children in 20 years that survived. I am sure at 44 she didn’t have much left to give.
Given what I know about the era and area, Louisa Boggan lived a hardscrabble life. By today’s standards of wealth, my ancestors were poor. They were not large landowners in the wilds of Anson County and I have never heard mention or found any records that indicate that they were slave owners, a sure sign of wealth in the South. When I think about Louisa Boggan I wonder what her dreams were, her hopes and wants. Did she ever imagine while she was hoeing the hard soil under a blazing sun with a baby on her hip that I would be here 154 years after her birth? That my children, a new generation, who have no idea that this woman even existed would be here today because of her?
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – The Book of James 4:14
I have accepted the fact that my life is a sandcastle. That all this “stuff” that I have collected and accumulated over the course of my life will have no relevance or bearing to my future offspring 150 years from now. Like Louisa Boggan, I will simply be a name, a moment in time for my 3rd great-grandchild. But today I am here. I will tend and enjoy what I have and when the time comes, maybe today, or maybe tomorrow, I will let it go. We all will.
“The world is afflicted by death and decay. But the wise do not grieve, having realized the nature of the world.” – Gautama Buddha