A few weeks ago, I was unexpectedly given a family history novel to read that fully captured my interest. The kind author, Mrs. Veldhuis, gently handed over a copy of her published treasure with a twinkle in her eye and a glowing smile that was so joyful I just knew something deep was written between the covers. Guessing correctly, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and collected some worthy spiritual wisdom from her good storytelling labour, which is worth mentioning here.
In summary, the book is a Manitoba historical 1880’s account of the prestigious Criddle family homestead derived from personal journals recovered during the tumultuous settler era. How we perceive life on that homestead depends on who is telling the story and which secrets, if any, are shared with the reader. I was captivated by the vivid imagery in a settler era of survival and sacrifice which occurred before my time. It was heart wrenching to hear the sufferings of one character in particular, and angering to hear the deeply selfish agenda freely orchestrated by the privileged family members.
Out of basic human compassion, I couldn’t help but grieve for the truth of situation and the losses revealed eloquently and easily by a very relatable and identifiable character. I suspect my grief runs deeper than the story though, because it is not an isolated one. It is a story that carries many deeper truths about the oppression of women and the insipid workings of shame we often carry. My grief was a devotion and a willingness to open myself to the wisdom of understanding the untold stories from a healing lens. My grief was a statement of desire for a life where all can experience joy and happiness together.
I find wisdom in how the victim dealt with her oppression. Despite being essentially enslaved into servitude with no other choices, the main character proceeds with a sense of love for her family. She focuses not on her tragic situation but on offering her best where she was able to and caring deeply for the proceeding generations.
Mrs. Veldhuis demonstrated to me the healing power of story even by the way she carries herself now since writing the novel. She does not wear any heaviness in her way of being; she walks lightly and brightly. She explained to me over coffee that by discovering the secrets of her family and owning them in her story, she changed as a person and it unravelled many unexplained internal diffuse struggles she encountered at a younger age.
The message of the book also rings true from my own past feelings of diffuse depression or confusing family relations. It reinforces the spiritual tool I use as sometimes said in A.A., “The sickness can be found in within the secrets”. By looking at family systems and the secrets carried within them, we can unravel the knots of our reality rope and re-weave our identity into something harmonious and congruent in our values, practices and relationships.
Lastly, the main character models a peaceful way of forgiveness for a terrible situation. Though we are not given much insight into her personal faith, I find it humbling to possibly imagine being in her shoes and keeping a positive mindset. I live in deep gratitude knowing from where the material abundance in my generation was derived. Today, there are more options for women to step away from oppression, and although women have new oppressive challenges, this story can inspire them to overcome.
BTh, BRS, Level 2 CPE, Reiki Master, Grief and Loss Practitioner
Former spiritual care coordinator at Marymound Inc., working on Master of Art in Spiritual Care
Owner and operator of Shabequay Healing Web: shabequay.ca