New Ancestors: Saying Goodbye, Saying Hello

My mom holding my sister with her mother, grandmother, and great-mother.

My mom holding my sister with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother circa 1973.

My mom died last Sunday. Over the past few days I have inhabited a whole spectrum of emotions in coming to terms with this fact. It was unexpected, sudden, and heartbreaking.

So my mother is now with the ancestors, with the beloved dead who have gone before. She is a new ancestor and for the first time I’m really thinking deeply about what ancestor worship and veneration means.

My mother and I have not been close for years. There are reasons for that, painful to recall, but now that she has passed their relevance seems markedly diminished. So it is somewhat surprising that now when I light a candle for my ancestors that she is there.

How is she finding it on the other side? Was she welcomed with love? Is she being taken in hand by those who came before? Is she finding peace?

I have always assumed my ancestors wish me well, but the addition of my mother to their host makes me wary. Does she wish me well? How has death changed her? How will her membership in the beloved dead alter her?

I find myself thinking about what the afterlife is like, how we find our place in it, and what it means to become a member of the tribe of the beloved dead. 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.

What is remembered lives. My ancestors live in me and around me. Even when the memories are bittersweet, their presence brings strength and comfort. More than anyone else, they are in my corner and helping me survive and thrive.

Hi Momma. Welcome to the tribe.

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About Star Foster

Southern polytheist in the Midwest.