Author: Sarah Dickey
~Ora Et Labora
As a young child I can remember warm summer days and a long drive down the Ohio River to the ‘hollow’ in Pennsylvania. It was here that we celebrated the Ramsey Reunion. My mom’s father Gregg was a Ramsey. Some years my brother and I were able to ride with my grandparents, Gregg and Marian. Those years were extra special. As we arrived in Pennsylvania, we traveled down many winding roads, all of which were so very familiar to my grandparents. As a kid, I was most excited about Aunt Eva’s homemade cinnamon rolls and playing with cousins in the swimming pool.
Years rolled by and the dynamics of our family transformed. People died, babies were born, locations changed; but all the while, my heart clung to the fierce fortitude of my family. I could feel their strength in the land that we walked upon. I saw some of these souls only once a year, but their warmth lasted well into the next. So many moments about these yearly reunions now fill my heart.
I remember one year in particular where we went on a hayride; my cousin Sam got his tractor and wagon up for us to travel through the ‘hollow.’ I can still feel the landscape in my heart. The Ramsey homestead is at the top of a hill, adorned with a lane to travel up to reach the homestead and the barn. My great grandparents had raised their ten children here, of which they buried two babies. And then my great uncle had taken up residence here with his wife and three sons.
On that particular hot summer day some twenty years ago, I remember the hayride and the family surrounding me. I reminisce how spacious I felt to look around for miles and see trees and fields and soft fluffy clouds. I still hear the laughter of some of my younger cousins at their delight of being on a hayride. And I recall my dear sweet cousin JoAnn, filling my heart with the history of our family. It’s one of those moments I often travel back to when my legs feel weary and my heart is heaving with uncertainty.
It was on this particular day that JoAnn shared about our history back in the Lowlands of Scotland, our Ramsey Clan as well our Cameron Clan. She recounted our ancestors struggles at the battle of Culloden, and many other details that I can’t now remember. But one of the poignant memories from that sunny day is her narrating the meaning of our family crest. The Ramsey family crest has the head of a unicorn perched in the center with the Latin words Ora et Labora, which is Latin for ‘Pray and Work.’
And so fast forward to 2020. Here I am, armed with the resilience and fierceness of my ancestors. In some recess of my heart I am able to connect to the unimaginable sorrows they must have felt on the battlefield of Culloden some 247 years ago. And yet; here I sit. Some resilient part of my lineage carried on, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. And now I feel this same call being echoed throughout my heart. It’s not a modern-day battle cry, rather a deep stirring to make my life something beautiful, that carries on well after I am here. I hold our family’s motto close to my heart.
Whether I am at my computer working, or suiting up to go out for some essentials, I am considering all of my life an invitation to ‘pray and work.’ Some days this work is in my office, and somedays it’s greeting the sorrow of separation from those I love. How I long to scoop up my niece and nephews and be in their presence. I can’t wait for a hug from my mom. Some days I’m holding a space within my heart for friends who have lost loved ones. Other days it’s grieving a life that is no longer familiar, but very much mine. Being human as Rumi reminds us in his Guesthouse poem, invites a host of visitors each and every day. I have been entertaining these visitors with the motto of my clan tucked sweetly in my heart. I feel that each instance is an opportunity for me to work and pray. A chance to move through my fears. To meet the ego parts of myself and to pray that I can step a rung higher on the ladder of life. That I can wake up and see this new world with new eyes.
I’m not lessening or spiritually bypassing the ‘horrendous devastating humanness’ of this moment in time. As I touch my grief, I also dive deeper into my heart. I am feeling called to step higher and bring more love to my work; to the world. It is my prayer, my meditation, my deepest heart offering that my family’s wisdom is in the ethers supporting me in this moment of time. When my legs feel weary and my heart can’t take a moment more of sorrow, I pray that the unseen world answers my call. I request their fierce strength, their centuries of courage, and their eternal love to guide me forward. I can almost hear the bagpipes in the distance.
This brings tears to my heart because it does feel scary and overwhelming at times. I sense a whole range of feelings right now, but when I find the Ramsey ‘hollow’ of my heart, I can touch both our resilience and our suffering. They both exist. Throughout history we have deeply befriended each of these visitors.
So, my dear friends. I offer a deep prayer of love and healing. I can only hope on the other side of this virus that the work I am putting into the world is imbued with greater love. To the clans of Scotland and to the ‘hollow’ in Pennsylvania, thank you for buttressing me with so much love and fierceness. Here’s an old Scottish blessing from my heart to yours.
May the peace of the tallest mountain
and the peace of the smallest stone
be our peace.
May the stillness of the stars
watch over us.
And may the everlasting music of the wave
lull us to rest.
All my Love- Sarah