Three months ago I sat in my first sweat lodge and for the first time truly connected with my heritage, with the blood that flows through my veins and those that came before me. Last, Sunday November 8th Clancy Randall Campbell, my grandfather, died.
I come from a family that has done their genealogy work. I was also home schooled as a youth and part of our history was learning about our own family heritage so I knew about my ancestors. However, during the time between those history lessons and the sweat lodge I found myself drifting away from family. When my parents got divorced and my 3 older sisters left state, I made the decision that family sucks and they it causes unnecessary pain and burden.
Some time passed and I relinquished my family and spent time living, learning and analyzing who I was as I stood alone. However, my quest to find myself, with out my family, eventually brought me back to them. For how can I truly embrace myself if I do not embrace where I came from?
I started my own family, I started healing the distance that I created and allowed to be created between me and my existing family. I even reached out to my grandfather who once had to pay me $100 dollars to listen to him for 4 hours speak about his passion for family and their eternal bonds.
It was a slow process but over the years I was once again an active part of my family… an active part of my clan. But I was so rapped up in creating my own family that I didn’t spend much time connecting with my heritage, with the heritage that was still alive through my Grandfather…
… Until a good friend of mine Dustin Ford, pointed out how much I was like my grandfather. You see, months prior to my first sweat, Dustin and I, were discussing the men we are today and where we draw our strength from. Some how the topic of my grandfather came up and how he was a patriarch for not only our family but also many others (through Mormon Church).
In that conversation it dawned on me like never before how much I have followed, as a leader, in my grandfathers footsteps. I had seen similarities between my grandpa and I before but something about the way Dustin said it clicked in me and I could see and feel the strength and the heritage that was coming through my grandfather and in to me.
I started to really investigate this connection, I found myself asking my grandfather to share his stories, I found myself truly listening and seeing the strength and wisdom in his words. Fortunately, during the past year I found myself with my grandfather a lot, hearing the wisdom I was to angry to hear before.
But it wasn’t until I was in the sweat lodge that I truly connected with the power of my heritage. I connected with the strength and wisdom of my grandfather and the generations before him and I felt it in every fiber of my soul as their history ran through my veins.
As I went through the intensely raw healing experience, I had a recurring thought echoing from my subconscious “your family deserves to experience this”. I could even feel the energy of my brothers, cousins and father but most of all, my grandfather, present during the sweat. Little did I know this process of healing, letting go and reconnecting with my heritage would play a huge roll in the months to come. Not only did that experience further fuel my desire to learn from my grandfather it also inspired me to pull strength from my ancestors and further nurture the relationships with my relatives.
I will go into more detail on the Sweat lodge experience later, but before that I must come back to the present. The day he died my Grandpa, Grandma, Mother, Cousin and cousin’s son hit a patch of black ice and slid of the road. The van careened down a ditch and my Grandfather was hurt to the point he could not breathe and died shortly after.
My grandfather was one of the toughest, hard working, men I have ever met. He would work longer, harder and with more commitment then men half his age. He taught me the value of hard work and getting things done even when it is hard or inconvenient. He was the fittest 83 years old I have ever met. We used to say that Grandpa wouldn’t die from old age he would die when he ran out of stuff to do. None of us saw this coming!
There was no fowl play, no speeding, seatbelts were worn and Ryan handled the tough situation with honor that even the strongest men would find hard to muster in such a challenging situation. But grandpa didn’t make it. When my younger brother was told this, trying to find the positive in such a hard situation, he said “at least grandpa went out with his boots on”. He never had to face running out of things to do.
Here it is Wednesday the 11th, 3 days after the accident and at 6:30 pm 5 of Grandpa’s grandsons and one grandson in-law are going to a sweat lodge. This wasn’t planned because of grandpa’s death. In fact it was supposed to happen last month but do to random events, sickness, travel, etc; it was postponed to this week, this day. Originally there were going to be coworkers and friends of mine coming to this sweat with me but they had conflicts come up and one by one my family members decided, that for some reason they we were going to come experience this with me.
I have heard a lot of people say, it was grandpa’s time, everything happens for a reason or they needed him on the other side. I don’t know how I feel about that and I have a hard time seeing why, in someone’s big plan, my grandpa had to die. But I do know that there are a lot of different events that have happened in the past week leading up to today, that have the fellow men of my clan coming together to experience a process of healing and connection with our ancestry.
I sat 3 months ago in a sweat lodge, for the first time really connecting with my heritage and with tears in my eyes from my overwhelming gratitude for those that came before me. Today I go to the sweat to let go physically of my grandfather and to forge a bond with him spiritually. My grandfather was a leader amongst men, a true example of Christ like, a kind caring man and today I go with my fellow tribesmen to honor him and to forever connect and find strength in his love. I love you grandpa…