Thursday, December 29, 2016

Levi Richard Gibson

Just over two months ago, my wife and I welcomed our fourth child and third son into our family. We named him Levi Richard Gibson - Levi because we love Hebrew names, and Richard after his maternal grandfather.

Everything was wonderful. He was a sweet, happy boy. Only fussed when he was hungry or needed a change. We had a great Halloween (Lisa thought up the cutest costume) and Thanksgiving too. Then he started smiling and laughing, and we loved seeing that beautiful toothless grin. As we moved towards Christmas, we picked out little gifts for Levi - binkies, a couple of outfits, stuff you get an infant. 

Then, two days before Christmas, the unthinkable happened. He went into cardiac arrest. We called 911 and the paramedics were able to get him to the hospital in just a few minutes. We got there as soon as we could after making arrangements for the other three kids, and found a team of a dozen people working to save our son's life. Despite their best efforts for over two hours, he passed away. 

Now, as we finalize plans for his funeral, we still can't believe what happened. It feels unreal, like a tv show or movie is playing instead of our lives. 
But the last few days have not played out like a tv show or movie, at least not one I've seen. Instead of only being crushed by the loss of our little boy, we have also been richly blessed by the kindness, generosity, and compassion of many people. The compassion of others who have also lost children has helped us know that we will make it through this ok. Family, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers have surrounded us, put their arms around us, and helped us through these uncharted waters. They have helped make it possible to get everything in order to give Levi the funeral we feel he deserves. 

Above all, thanks to the prayers of many people, we have felt the comfort of the Holy Ghost assuring us that Heavenly Father knows our pain, that He is with us, and that our little boy is ok with Him. We know he will always be our son, and we will see him again. 

I miss my son more than words can express, and I know others are going through similar losses right now (Lisa's aunt passed away two days before Levi, and another family member miscarried the following day). But these losses are only temporary. As my family history research has shown me, every family suffers losses, it's how they react to them that differs. I hope that we can use these experiences to draw closer together, to treasure the time we have together, and be more patient and kind with each other. And we will keep Levi's memory alive so that our kids and grandkids will remember him. His stay on earth may have been brief, but I believe the impact of his life is only beginning to be felt, and will ripple onward for many years to come. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Genes Day Friday - One more DNA test

As should be painfully obvious by now, I'm addicted to genetic genealogy and DNA tests. Having tested more than a dozen relatives, I've been amazed at all that I've learned about my family history through DNA.

When I got into genetic genealogy a few years ago, I learned there are two overriding principles that govern who to test - test the oldest generations first, and fish in every pond you can afford to. As to the first point, I soon saw the wisdom in such council - not even a year after testing my paternal grandmother, she passed away unexpectedly. Fortunately I was able to make some very signifcant discoveries in her ancestry through the DNA testing, and share them with her before she died. As my knowledge of the genetic history of my family increased, I found I needed more tests to answer questions that came up. I now have a pretty large pool of tests to work with. Some of them will need to be upgraded in the future (I only have one mt-DNA test at the full sequence level), and some additional tests will need to be ordered, but all the DNA I need from older generations is stored at the labs, and the additional tests and upgrades can be ordered as time and finances allow.

For the second point, I've done a pretty good job of that too. I tested my wife at, most of my paternal and maternal family at 23andMe (back before the "new experience"), and more paternal and maternal family at FTDNA (as well as having the 23andMe and Ancestry results transferred over). And of course, everything has been uploaded to Gedmatch for maximum matching opportunities. So I feel pretty confident about the fishing in multiple ponds, except for one - Ancestry.

So far, my wife's test is the only one I have at Ancestry. And while many people who test at Ancestry take their data to FTDNA and Gedmatch, many more do not. I could be wrong, but Ancestry seems to be the "test here if you want us to do the work for you" lab. They still don't have a chromosome browser, even though the genetic genealogy community has been demanding one for years. They have the least in terms of tools to work with on their site, though the matching DNA to user's trees feature is pretty awesome. But overall, they seem more geared to helping people make fast and easy discoveries, even though they may not be 100% accurate (as Roberta Estes can tell you). But even with all those issues, I still want to get my lure in the Ancestry waters and find those cousins who for whatever have tested there and only there and won't spread their data elsewhere.

Then Black Friday came along, and with it, a whopping 30% discount on AncestryDNA's autosomal DNA test. That was a deal I couldn't refuse. Especially because this test was for the one person in all my testing that I haven't tested yet - me!

I bought the test Friday or Saturday night. Imagine my surprise, though, when the test came in the mail Wednesday afternoon! I wasn't expecting it for several more days. Score! 

I pulled it out of the box, activated it online, coughed up the spit, and sealed it in the envelope, all in less than a half hour. They really do make it easy for you. 

I put it in the mail Wednesday night, so now all I have to do is wait. I really hate waiting, but in this case, I am so totally swamped with stuff to do, I probably won't even notice the time go by. Ancestry said it normally takes 6-8 weeks for results to come back, so I won't be getting any results for Christmas unless they REALLY overdeliver. But things will hopefully slow down again for me by the middle-end of January, when the results are due back, so I can be patient. Probably. Maybe.

This is really exciting for me. Everyone else I've tested knowing that they share DNA with me or my wife and kids. This time I will actually get to see what MY DNA looks like - how much I actually have from each of my parents and grandparents and cousins. It's taken something I've grown to appreciate on a macro level, and delivering a whole new experience on the micro level. I can't wait to see what I look like! Genetically I mean. I do have a mirror at home.

I'm still working with my previous tests as much as time allows. But with genealogy projects popping out of the woodwork (which I LOVE), and all the Christmastime busy-ness, plus my upcoming role in my SAR chapter (I was elected Secretary at the last meeting), it's gonna be a whirlwind of a year in 2017. And I couldn't be happier.