"Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one." ` Anonymous
I am a Dowling. I came to my name by way of my dad, the oldest of the five Irish Catholic children born to Robert and Mary Dowling. My dad is a third generation born American. As the great-granddaughter times two of my immigrant great- great grandparents I come from a long line of Irish. Immigrants who worked hard to come over on boats across the ocean to this great country. Our roots are planted deep in southern country roads and dirt floors. Poor men and women done good, working in the steel mills of Alabama and fighting for the freedom of their beloved adopted country.They most definitely faced demons, fought off devils and eventually found Jesus. Peering into our family history there is deep, dark struggle, heart-ache and difficulties. Some stories are best left unread while others should be retold time and time again, as often as possible. Truthfully, "Our family is just the right mix of chaos and love." We may not always get along, or agree but when push comes to shove we stand side by side, hand in hand TOGETHER. Sarcasm may be apart of who we are, after all we're Irish but no one ever stands alone and you can take that to the bank. And so this post it is about is my history, our history and our story as family. And yes it has refined, defined and shaped me into the glorious stubborn hot mess of a southern woman I am today.
The truth is my dad's childhood was difficult, full of struggle and uncertainty. Yet this man, now the patriarch if you like still grieves over not ever doing enough or being there enough for his family and siblings. He is a man of honor and strength. A man who would willingly lay his own life down for those he loves. What I have learned through the years is that my dad is a man of integrity and faith. A man who has never had it easy. His life has always been a testimony of God's love, grace and mercy even in the thick of it. My dad has given me so much more than my name. He's given me a roof over my head and food in my belly. He's provided refuge and arms always open but he's given me even more than that. My dad, he's always given me unconditional love, a solid foundation to build my life and my faith on and taught me by example the meaning of grace under fire. He's truly a selfless, loving man, like none I have ever known. he doesn't ask for anything in return. He just simply gives of himself until there is no more to give. I think back on the way he sent all his money home to his dad while he was in Vietnam. He did this in order to take care of his siblings. He never thought twice, he just gave in spite the demons nipping at his own heels. This is the same example of grace and mercy I have been witness to all my life. What my dad has taught me is no matter your history, the pitfalls or the circumstances, you can rise above. This is his legacy, my history and our story, one worth telling and remembering.
The truth is while we can not escape the pages of our past or of our family history we can most assuredly decide how it shapes us and how our story is told. I guess when it comes down to it my dad has taught me how to pull myself up by my bootstraps. And while my dad and his life are a book filled with stories of hardships and difficulties most certainly his story is also full of chapters transforming chaos into grace and harmony. Looking at my dad's life, his family and our history I have come to believe the old saying is true,"Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trail into a triumph and a victim into a victory." Pen to paper I have to give all credit to Jesus for designing and shaping my life and give my dad credit for the faith I carry with me today. Why, well because I saw my dad's faith in continual motion in spite of everything. By his example I came to see Colossians 1:7 alive, living vibrantly in front of me everyday. "In HIM all things hold together." Sure life could have been easier on my dad, he could have gone to college earlier, met my mom sooner, not gone to war or left home at 17 but that isn't his story, nor is it our history. Those days, those endless nights of uncertainty made my dad into the unwavering man he is. I am humbled to be his daughter, the granddaughter and great - granddaughter of poor Irish immigrants. We are Dowlings, a wee bit crazy, exceptional loud but we are born and stitched together, part of the same cloth. "We aren't step or half, we're simply family." (MomGoTink) And today,because of my dad's humble beginnings not only do I have a large, beautiful and if not sometimes stubborn, feisty family but so do my children. I have cousins, aunts and uncles who I share a history with. A story full of both laughter and tears. And because of this extraordinary link we share an unbreakable bond even if we're miles apart.
So today as I look through so many countless family pictures reading through the pages of our Dowling family history I see happiness, and joy, laughter, dancing and hopefulness. Yes my eyes roll across the tales of misery and suffering too, but be assured they are not forgotten and if I listen closely I can hear stories of endurance and love coming from our pages. Time passes too quickly, and so do those we love and hold dear. My simple prayer is this, that we may stay close, bridging the gaps time and distance open and never lose sight of each other. Our memories, our history and our family is only as strong as we are,TOGETHER. And so Life Lesson #130 ~ Our History, leads me here, to this page and a quote by the always interesting Vincent Van Gogh, "Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." And that my friends is the true story and history of our family.
"We're all stories in the the end...Just make it a good one." ~ Dr. Who