I hope that you are enjoying Mother’s Day, whether you’re the Mom being honored, you’re honoring your mother, or you’re one of the millions who “mother” and love others, one way or another.
I didn’t have time to complete my normal article for today, but I certainly didn’t want to let Mother’s Day pass without acknowledgment.
I didn’t get my article finished because, let’s just say, I’ve been extremely busy with something VERY interesting.
I can’t tell you everything, but I can tell you a little!
Just a couple of days ago, I was able to visit Mom once again in the freezer at FamilyTreeDNA.
Mom’s DNA has been housed there since 2003, when she swabbed for her first DNA test. It’s so hard to believe that was two decades ago. So much has changed.
That stored DNA sample allowed me to upgrade Mom to the Family Finder test in 2012, six years after she passed away.
In 2013, I visited Mom at FamilyTreeDNA in the freezer and realized, as I looked in that little window, that there was more of my mother in that freezer than anywhere else on earth. My DNA is in there too, with her, just sayin’. I won’t be buried beside her in the soil, but I am near her in that freezer every day. Somebody has to keep an eye on her!
In intervening years, FamilyTreeDNA purchased a larger freezer and moved Mom from the earlier location across the room to the larger cryo-preservation cemetery – I mean freezer.
Now, Mom, with a few million of her friends and several thousand of our relatives, is partying it up in there when no one is looking.
Every time I stare through that window, it’s like peering backward into a time capsule. I wonder, if all the Y-DNA was processed at the Big Y-700 level, how much of the entire Y-DNA phylogenetic tree would we be able to reconstruct?
People often skip testing mitochondrial DNA, passed from mothers to all their children, thinking it won’t be genealogically useful. I assure you, that’s not always the case. Furthermore, if you don’t test, DNA can never be useful. Every single person has mitochondrial DNA, so just imagine how much of the mitochondrial tree would be created if every one of those samples was tested at or upgraded to the full sequence level.
How many dead ends are in that freezer, meaning no living people carry that line anymore? I’m one of those people because I have no grandchildren through my daughter. Mom’s, her mother’s, and my mitochondrial DNA dies with my generation.
Based on my mitochondrial DNA sequence, meaning my mutations, I’ll VERY likely have a new haplogroup when the Million Mito Project rolls out, and even more likely that it will be at least three branches down the tree, closer in time.
What pieces of our human history will be lost if the people in that freezer don’t test their mitochondrial DNA at the full sequence level? The full sequence is needed to construct the mitochondrial tree of all humanity.
How many more matches would we have if everyone in that freezer had a Family Finder test? How many brick walls would fall? How many mysteries would be solved? Would we be able to reconstruct the DNA of our ancestors from their descendants?
What happens if we never open that time capsule, individually and collectively?
“Just Do It”
I had to pinch myself, though. As I stood in that lab, viewing through that window what I considered a sacred and hallowed space for Mom and humanity as well, I was reminded of what Mom said to me not long before she died. In fact, I can hear her frail voice.
“You need to do that.”
What was “that”?
“That” was transforming her DNA results into a story – her story, her history and genealogy – and how she connected with the story of all humankind. Her “story” revealed her history, our history, even before genealogy, connecting with her soul. She could touch people whose names she would never know, but who contributed their mitochondrial DNA to her. It brought them alive.
I had an entire litany of sensible, level-headed reasons why I could never “do that,” beginning with the fact that I already had a career and owned a business. I had a family, children, and responsibilities – nope – no can do, Mom.
Not to be deterred, Mom gently stopped me in the process of listing all the perfectly logical and valid reasons why that would never work and told me that all of that was just preparing me for what I was “supposed to do,” and I needed to “just do it.” This was nothing like the mother I knew, always conservative in her advice and never wanting me to step out, even a little bit, onto an unstable limb. Let alone leap off the cliff of uncertainty with absolutely no safety net.
What had happened to my mother?
I simply couldn’t make her understand – all those years ago.
Then, my gaze drifts back to the present, and I remember that I’m staring into a freezer, not a time machine. Mom has already had all the tests available today. But many of her frozen neighbors have not.
As I stood, looking into that window, into the past, and perhaps into the future, I was afraid to turn around.
People were standing behind me, filming. I didn’t want anyone to see those tears slipping down my cheeks. After all, I had simply been looking at a window, right? Just a window. Not a cemetery. Not a portal. Not a time machine, no reason for tears – unless you understand the magnitude of what the freezer holds.
I so hoped that those hot tears didn’t entirely ruin my makeup, or that I could at least escape to the restroom to fix it without being noticed.
The Greatest Journey
On the way to the restroom, I saw this framed magazine, a wink and a nod from Mom, I’m sure. Indeed, our DNA is the greatest journey ever told, ever embarked upon, and the story is not yet entirely written. Mom said DNA would change the world as we know it, and she was right.
Mom, I found a way – or maybe fate found me back in 2004. That fateful fork in the road, although I’m not sure I even realized I had slipped onto that road untaken until it was too late to turn back.
Maybe Mom pushed those buttons from the other side, because I’ve been passionately “doing that” one way or another now for almost two decades. And finally, finally, we are going to be able to tell a larger story.
You and me, Mom. Hand in hand with our cousins. All of them – on every continent around the world.
Making history is on the horizon. DNA rocks. Here’s to all the mothers!!!
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love and miss you oh so much. And, while I wasn’t at the time, I’m – ahem – so incredibly grateful for the swift kick in the behind called encouragement.
But then, isn’t that the age-old story of motherhood?
Until next time Mom, you behave in there!
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