Considering my Ancestors
I have been thinking about the Ancestors lately and how exactly they fit into my life. I have honoured the Ancestors for a number of years. My grandparents and aunts and uncles seemed the closest I could experience as Ancestors, other than the animal friends that are no longer in my life.
I was one of the fortunate ones. At 96 and 92, I still had both of my parents. I called them my “greatest treasure”. My mother’s memory had been slowly slipping for years, like riding a bicycle down the least of slopes so that it seems like you are barely moving, and maybe you’re not. My father was fairly mobile and in great health, actually. At 89, a broken hip set him back a bit, but he kept going strong.
At 95, he started to slow down, and with my mother of 91, refused to leave Senior Living for assisted living. After about two years of cajoling, my sister and I were able to get them to move to Assisted Living in the same building complex. They were to move on a Thursday in August and two days before, my father fell and my mother fractured a couple of bones in her back picking him up. Instead of going to Assisted Living, they went to the hospital.
My mother went to rehab in a nursing home and did rather well. While my father was in the hospital, something happened so that he could no longer walk and his mental clarity took a serious hit. He followed my mother into the same room at the nursing home. Long story short, there was roughly one nurse for about 20 people and we decided to move them to someplace better.
Next steps in the journey
We found an exceptional facility in the Chicago area that was amazingly expensive but where they had the best of all possible care. My father did fairly well until January when he experienced a marked decline. In February of this year, I put him in hospice care. I asked two things of the hospice people. I asked that they not tell my mother that he was now getting hospice care and I asked that he receive the Anointing of the Sick by a Catholic Priest. They assured me of both things. They told my mother that my father was dying that very same day and they never arranged for the Anointing of the Sick. It was the hospice care from Hel.
My father started to receive hospice care on Thursday and, when I went back to see him on Friday, he was busy in a group exercise session, singing and dancing the chicken dance in his wheelchair. He didn’t see me looking on; I knew it was the last time I would see him. Six days later, on my parents 71st Wedding Anniversary, he passed away just before midnight.
When my grandmother (my father’s mother) passed away 30 years before, I remember asking my father if he would go back to France for the funeral. He said “no”, he wanted to remember her as she was, not as she would be, that is, deceased. I never forgot that lesson, that guidance.
An ending and a journeyI had asked my father once if he believed all of the Catholic stories about afterlife, etc., and he said that by going to church, he was just hedging his bets. In the end, I am not sure what he really believed. He knew that I was a Druid Priest and the head of my Order, and he took it in a very matter-of-fact way, like he did most everything. As a survivor of a German work camp in World War II, he took each day as it came.
On the evening that he died, I was in bed and Rhiannon said to me “You better turn on your ringer”, pointing to my cell phone. It was not five minutes after that, I received the call that my father had passed away. I immediately called to Manannan mac Lir and asked him to ferry him to where he was meant to be.
Calling to Manannan mac Lir
I feel that Manannan is always close to the matters of humans. I do not have any direct proof of this, but in my experience, when called, he is there. In the days leading up to my father’s death, I had thought of Manannan mac Lir. He is always in my daily workings. I knew that when the time came, I would reach out to him to help. When the call finally came, I was unable to be in the presence of my father since a) he was over four hours away, and b) he had already passed. This is what I did when he passed:
- I called out to Manannan mac Lir and asked him to guide my father to his next destination
- I lit three candles, one for Land, one for Sea, and one for Sky. These would be beacons to guide my father although, with Manannan, there was no need for guidance or directions. These candles were for my father
- I envisioned Manannan coming to my father. My father was no longer the tired, weak, and defeated man that he had become, but a younger, more vibrant man, the paradigm of my father. My father asked no questions of Manannan, but instead went with him.
- They travelled, first by land, then by sea, then by sky. After about three hours, I lost sight of both Manannan and my father. Rhiannon said to me at this point, your father has arrived at his destination
We extinguished the candles and went to our own sleep.
Joining the Ancestors
The next morning, secure in the knowledge that my father had joined the Ancestors, I had some adjustments to make. The photograph of him looking was moved to my Ancestor altar. In my devotional workings, he went from the healing section to being in the Ancestor section. It would take me weeks for my words to reflect my desire in this undertaking. He had been in my healing working for so long, habit became the ruling force.
As time passed and his passing receded into the distance somewhat, I started to remember the many things he said. He remembered his mother as she was, just like I remember him as he was. I realized that his gift to me as an Ancestor was guidance. The lessons he had passed on were now more than suggestions or teachings, they were guidance. After 96+ years of statements and recommendations, I would have a lot of guidance to turn to. Now, it is time to let that wisdom rise to the surface, like seeds planted in some forgotten spring. I look forward to those blossoms, to that harvest.