so, when are you going to tell me?
One of my earliest memories is with my mother. I must have been around six years old.
I am in the shower with her, a convenient practice for mothers the world over. I remember looking up at her surrounded by the water fog screen of safety and privacy and asked,
so when are you going to tell me?
She looked back at me, confused. "Tell you about what?"
The laws, you know.
Of how things work.
I remember her confusion. I remember she stammered. I remember she seemed suddenly uncomfortable.
"What do you mean?"
You know! The laws of the well - how we relate. How things happen.
All the things...you know!
I gestured vaguely in the air.
The laws of the world.
I remember thinking there were secret truths about 'life, the universe and everything' that all adults knew.
She smiled and looked strangely gently at me "Well, if you mean where you came from, we'll talk about that when you're older."
I felt frustrated and misunderstood.
When she started my sex education at seven years old, I was amused, but also disappointed. She thought this was going to answer my question about 'how things work'.
I wanted to hear how the world worked, about the laws of the universe, and the power and effects of the energy surrounding us.
Around 40 years later, in May 2016 she died. Only hours before she passed, alone and struggling for breath on a hospital ward she rang me.
We hadn't spoken two sentences to each other for over 15 years. As evangelical right-wing fundamentalist Christian missionaries, my parents’ behaviour was emotionally and physically abusive and violent. I think they did the best they could at the time, by their god, their church and their peers.
Still feeling like the small child in the shower with her, I forced myself to scoop up any wisps of confidence I could. This death scene was familiar ground to me, I just never thought I'd be doing this with my own mother.
I'd learnt plenty in the intervening 40 years about 'life, the universe and everything' and thankfully, where she had been unable to answer, the Spirits have taught me well.
Death's sitting room has little time for small talk.
I took a deep breath and quietly asked her,
'Are you frightened?'
Unable to form complete words, she took a deep breath and gutted out "yesssss".
Thanks to the entities around me, I suddenly heard the full names of her closest friends who had passed away while I was still too young to remember their names or understand their significance in her life. And I knew my task.
As I named these women she'd found comfort and solace with in her 40s and 50s, I reminded her of their treasured friendship. I mustered all the authority and confidence I could to tell her that her death wouldn't be painful, and these women could see her and were waiting and longing to reconnect with her again.
She called once more, 24 hours before she took her last breath. There was no sound other than her laboured struggle for air.
I woke one morning late 2017 with a very strong desire to create an ancestral alter. As I searched through some belongings, I found an old photo of my mother. Over the next few days, I created this space and several other elements 'clicked' into place related to my work with the Disincarnate.
No one gains wisdom or special insights just by dying. I doubt in the past 19 or 20 short months, she had become any kind of 'wise guiding ancestor'. As the only image I have of a deceased direct relation, hers is central on my alter as a place-bearer to my ancestral lineage, whatever that may be. Today that photograph of her is my conduit to the ancestors, those older relations I don't know.
I echo Star Foster's reflections:
My relationship to the ancestors is suddenly a richer concept, with more depth, color, and nuance. I think about mom, how we rarely spoke over the past 14 years, and how she is now suddenly a rather intimate part of my religious life.
Daily as I light candles and leave offerings, I reach out beyond her and acknowledge the ancestors who 'have skin in the game'.
5 January 2018
IMAGE: Flickr/essie/Water Bamboo