Recently I was watching the fantastic Bruce Springsteen on Broadway Netflix special and one line above all else spoke to me:
“We are ghosts or we are ancestors in our own children’s lives.”
I scrambled for a piece of paper and a pen, as I have so many times in my relationship with my husband. It used to drive him crazy, when I was struck by a thought, a revolutionary idea, an amazing notion that I felt must be written down before it left my head forever.
Such is the life of a writer. And a writer’s spouse. You get used to it.
What an idea… We are all ghosts or ancestors in our own children’s lives!
We will haunt them or we will inform them. We will hold them back or propel them forward. We will hinder or advise. We will disgrace or honor. We will be feared or revered.
Oh, how I want to be an ancestor, and I fear being a ghost! How hard I’ve worked to escape the ghosts of my own life, both living and long dead, the generations of ghosts I haven’t even known, who continue to haunt my own family without their even knowing, scaring them into patterns of behavior that are toxic and painful and shortsighted.
I want something else for my own children. I want to be something different in their memories after I’m gone. I want them to remember me as imperfect but mostly good. I hope they will seek my advice as an ancestor, and not push away thoughts of me as a ghost.
We as a nation still suffer from our own ghosts, don’t we? Weren’t our Forefather’s both ancestors and ghosts? That is the unfortunate thing, that they are worthy of both honor and fear. We must be both wary of their shortcomings while also learning from their wisdom.
That is our challenge, as parents, as leaders, as part of the human experience. To be consciously good, the very best we can. But to also be gracious, to recognize that we will also fall short.
The basis of Redefined Love is the acceptance that we are both ghosts and ancestors, but we have control over our impact.
Yes, grace. Yes, love in spite of pain, cruelty, weakness. Forgive for the sake of your own healing and growth.
Like the wise and wonderful Bruce Springsteen, we must all make a conscious choice to be a ghost or an ancestor in our own children’s lives. If we don’t have children, we can still make that choice. We are all a part of humanity. We all have a responsibility. We are all accountable.
Of course, the reality of that human experience is that there is a little bit of ghost in all of us. It cannot be escaped. We all leave a little wisp to haunt those we leave behind. But we can be mostly good.
Thank you, Bruce Springsteen, for being mostly good, for sharing your wisdom, and for choosing to be an ancestor. You are one of the greats, and will never be forgotten.
Published January 15, 2019