Why should we care about who came before us, those we knew, those we didn’t, and those who are lost to memory?
Why do we care for our ancestors?
It isn’t so we can save them. It isn’t so we can absolve them of their complexities, their transgressions against us and oppression of others. It isn’t even, really, so we can deify them. At least not in the all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful way that so many of learned was the meaning of Deity.
Why do we care for our ancestors?
In some cases the answers are clear. We knew them, they cared for us, and so we care for them. We care now and throughout our lives as we know them. We care out of a clear sense of gratitude and love.
But what if that’s not the case? What if we have no love to give them as they were when they lived? What if they hurt us? What if we despise what they stood for? What if they owned people, raped, murdered, committed any number of horrors? Then what do we do?
My grandmother told me stories of a Montgomery relative (I don’t know whether we really had any of those) who held off a pirate with just a pair of pistols. Do I know who really was the pirate? Do I know whether I even had a Montgomery relative? Do I know whether “holding off” meant shooting someone? No I do not. This ancestor, to whatever degree he existed, is lost to me.
My grandmother also told me about my great-grandmother, terrible things. That my grandmother was hiding from her mother, and crawled under her bed. That her mother pulled her out by her hair. And yet also fanciful stories, like learning to drive, age 11, as they went across the country from New York City to Santa Clara. She said my great-grandmother was memorable, but a terrible mother.
And she, my grandmother, was no great shakes as a mother herself.
But they, like all of us, did the best they could with the tools they had.
The tools may not be good enough. The tools make break in our hands, spilling shards everywhere, cutting us and those we claim to love into pieces.
Actions have consequences.
Some of those consequences are we ourselves. Not only from our ancestors of blood, but also of adoption through the ages, and from Spirit. Ancestors whose DNA most nearly shares ours. Ancestors who built the families that have built us. Ancestors who have inspired or revolted us.
But even all this is not the reason to care about our ancestors.
So why do we care for our ancestors?
We are tree fertilizer.
We are to be the denizens of mausoleums and caskets, if we must.
We are stardust, we are earth, formed of mud with the breath of gods in our lungs. And Earth and Starry Heaven have us now and always have and always will.
Time is complex, but for now, we live within it. And we shall be ancestors ourselves one day. And our lives have consequences, and those consequences are other lives.
The children of our bodies, of our relation, of our communities…What legacy will we leave them? We will be their ancestors, even as we are their elders now. Will they dance for joy at the thought of us? Will they bring flowers to the streams where our ashes were scattered? Will they come and sit on the benches dedicated to us?
Or will they find us too complicated, too awful to comprehend? Will they see only our broken tools?
Come Through the Veil
We make offerings to the ancestors to remember that we are because they were. And I am because you are. And those after are because of one another. And they all are because we are.
Next Saturday, October 29th, I will host you, if you are willing, and the ancestors, whom I know will come, for a party. Sometimes subdued, sometimes fun, sometimes contemplative, sometimes tender, but a party. After all, it is the treats the kids are after on the 31st, no?
This retreat, Through the Veil, involves four online calls made from the comfiness of your own home. We will share our stories of ancestors and hopes for legacies. To contemplate and share. We will consider our place on Earth and under Starry Heaven. Our birthrights, our places, and our responsibilities. And maybe we will dance, some of us. And maybe we will sing songs our elders taught us. And maybe we will eat the food our elders fed us.
Maybe…just maybe we can recall where we came from, those of Blood, Adoption, or Spirit…and maybe we can say the names we know, whether they loved us or not. And maybe we can share with those who also long to know how to leave a legacy of love. A legacy wrought with strong tools of integrity, authenticity, compassion, and wisdom.
Interested in all this? Go here for more invitation…I’d so much love to see you.