As I began poking the past with my pen, using it to sift through the debris of a day that would shape my destiny, the past began poking me back, by way of a steady stream of centuries-old letters. Mailed lifetimes ago, from all corners of the globe—Ireland, India, England, France, Portugal, Mexico, America—the letters have one thing in common: their destination was Rossmore, the home of my childhood. As I began reading my ancestors’ deeply personal yet startlingly universal correspondence, a fascinating story began unfolding before my eyes—a story of adventure, escape, exploration, exploitation, monarchism, republicanism, famine, revolution, war, peace, religion, religiosity, exile, repatriation, home, belonging, reconciliation, redemption. A story about the building of new worlds and the destruction of ancient civilizations, the forging of new alliances and the forfeiture of old loyalties, the birth of new nations and the disintegration of old empires. A story about the innate greatness inherent in the human condition and our oftentimes-obstinate refusal to actualize it. Coursing throughout Loyalty: A Legacy of Loss, Loss and Learning to Let Go are the unalterable currents of destiny, and the unfathomable depths of familial bonds.
As I struggled to keep pace with my forefathers—who crossed paths with Britain’s Queen Victoria, France’s Emperors Bonaparte (Napoleon and Louis), Mexico’s Emperor Maximilian I and Ireland’s “uncrowned king” Daniel O’Connell on their voyages throughout new worlds and old—I discovered many things. I discovered that, until lessons are learned, history will repeat; that love has the power to transcend time, space and even death itself; that what is lost can be recovered; that one can always find one’s way home; and that one should never underestimate the power of the written word to make sense of the senseless, to heal what has been broken, and to illuminate the path for others destined to stray into the shadows of human existence.
There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken, a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable. There is a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength. There is a hollow space too vast for words through which we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being. There is a cry deeper than all sound, whose serrated edges cut the heart as we break open to the place inside which is unbreakable and whole, while learning to sing.