Tag: memories


Richard & Mary Jane ZalewskiToday marks 15 years since my paternal grandfather, Richard Zalewski, passed away. His death was the first major death in my immediate family, so I remember taking it pretty hard even though he had been sick for awhile.

I actually remember, pretty well, the last time I saw him and talked to him. My girlfriend, at the time, and I were going to Milwaukee for some reason and we stopped by to see how he was doing. Even though the pancreatic cancer was taking its toll on him, he was cheerful and in good spirits, like I usually remembered him (unless we were misbehaving, naturally.) I’m glad that I still have that vivid memory of him 15 years later.

Another moment I vividly remember from that time was when I was attending his funeral. I was sitting in my dad’s truck waiting to follow the procession to the cemetery and one of my favorite songs came on the radio, Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” The timing of the heartfelt song and what was happening around me caused me to break down into tears which, at the time, I had not done in many years. To this day, that song reminds me of my grandfather and that moment in the car and truthfully makes me feel happy.

Though, his death, and a subsequent newspaper article related to FamilySearch, sent me on a deep dive into the ocean we all know as genealogy. I have yet to come to the surface of that ocean and probably never will. Like most of us, I plan to grow gills and live in that ocean like a genealogical merman.

I know that he would be proud of the information I’ve gathered on his family tree and, unfortunately, he would’ve probably been a great help in tracking down some of the information I am still looking for. If anything, kids, this is a notice to visit your grandparents and allow them to tell you their stories. Even if you think the stories are boring and never plan to go into genealogy, it will definitely make you feel like you know them better and that will bring you comfort for many, many years.

I’m going to delve deep into theoretical things here, but it’s something that always sort of fascinated me. Since the completion of the human genome project and the advent of more accessible DNA testing for us “normal” people, there have been amazing things coming out of that area of science and genealogy.

Besides the standard health information and deep ancestry testing, I’ve always been curious about the possibility of our ancestors leaving traces of their memories in their DNA as it gets passed down. This idea has been used in some movies, like the 1980 movie Altered States, or in video games, like the Assassin’s Creed series.

While I doubt that their specific experiences are burned into our DNA, but possibly certain memories related to their experiences. For example, an article that talks about this idea contains this:

Let’s say you have always had a significant fear of bears since you were a child. Even Smokey the Bear and other friendly Hollywood bears could not convince you to regard bears with anything but anxiety and fearful feelings.

Maybe it is possible that deep, deep within your DNA memory banks, your great-great-great-great-grandmother or great-great-great-great-grandfather had a very bad experience with a bear two hundred years ago. Maybe they saw someone be killed by a bear. Maybe they had to climb a tree to save themselves from being eaten by a bear.

Would a life-changing experience like this, resulting in knowledge very useful for survival, possibly be encoded in the DNA and passed on to future generations and you?

Who knows? I find that to be a fascinating idea. Though, I would find it even more fascinating if we could tap into these memories. Maybe then I can finally figure out my great-great-grandfather’s parent’s names.