I want to include these reflections on my mothers passing or ‘transitioning’ on my blog. I include them because in the space of grief and loss, emotions are heightened and my words capture a resonance of loss which is beyond death and also speaks to the loss of identity, belonging, family connections, ancestral homelands.
It is these things, the connection to family and identity, that I have been striving for over the past years and throughout my family ancestral journey. When I started training in family constellations in 2011, I also stepped onto the ancestral path. My father died in 2018 and when he passed I felt that I had fulfilled my those duties. I had talked with him about the family ancestral line and drawn a genogram that could trace both my family lines to great grandparents, in name if not in deep knowledge.
I had re-visted Guyana after many years away and reconnected with cousins and other relatives. I had reaffirmed a sense of identity and belonging through gaining citizenship and renewing my Guyanese passport. And I had travelled to West Africa and done rites and rituals to connect with my African ancestors.
Journeying to RE-Member Changes You!
I am interested in how the journeys of the past 5 years has helped to tend to and nourish my soul. I am telling tales about how I found my place of belonging and identity (Hellinger 1999) in my ancestral family and I am ‘storying’ finding peace in my family soul through the acquiring of my Guyanese passport and connection to the homeland of my parents’ birth.
So when my mother too, passed in January 2020, I stayed for her funeral and then days after left for Barbados. I had intended to relocate to the Caribbean to explore research opportunities for my doctorate. But with her death came acknowledgement that my parents dream of life in England, a dream fashioned from the lack of opportunities for progression in 50’s Guyana was just that, their dream not mine. Mine was leading me back to the Caribbean in search of……….RE-Connection and deep RE-Membering.
And as the Coronavirus Pandemic engulfed the world, stopping movement of peoples, I find myself here for the long term.
Written – December 2019 – January 2020
Travelling with my Mother to Her Final Resting Place
I am travelling with my mother as she continues her journey to the next world. I realise that I cannot write about the ancestral path, its authenticity, its value for what it shows us about life if I cannot include this chapter, my mother’s transition to the other world.
To speak to what it is that you are doing that is different from others, your USP is a hard thing to do. What new voice can I bring to literature or language in the world? How does my thinking become a reflection of something that is bigger than myself? In what ways is my doctoral song a signifier of my purpose in life and work in the world.
In some ways this is my personal methodology, other ways of viewing the world that have been little noticed or recognised so do not have much meaning or standing in mainstream academia. But if I am to do justice to my voice and the voices of other ‘conjure women’ who have been little recognised in other contexts but their own, it seems important to ‘own to myself’, the ways of being unique that I bring to this journey.
I contend that the world of spirit, in an African ancestral context, is also the place that healing can be sought for people from the Black Diaspora. Many peoples of African descent have repudiated our ancestral ‘knowing’, consciously and unconsciously. We have an ancestral line of trauma, that we often try to circumvent out of fear of seeing our part in our malaise. It feels easier to look to the other, those who perpetrated harm on us through slavery and colonialism as the source of our For-getting!
But when we seek to not RE-Member our ancestral connections, we also diminish our ability to stand with spirit in an alliance of harmony and balance. We forget the pacts that we have made with our ancestors to go forth in our inheritance. And we minimise the depth and range of ancestral duties that are required of us by those who go before us.
A Step onto the Ancestral Path
Ancestral constellations are a method and a step onto the ancestral path. View it as a journey of RE-Membering in modern contemporary society, that in other cultural contexts might be recognised as the call to become a Sangoma in South Africa or a diviner in the West African tradition.
For those of us born in the African Diaspora and distanced from past traditions, sometimes over six to seven generations, there is no easy road back, no place of automatic belonging. So instead we find ourselves within a Western culture where we may not fully belong, where there is no ancestral connection. Instead if we choose the ancestral path, we are seeking to RE-Member and can reconnect to some traditions, others may be lost to us.
A Eulogy to my Mother on her Deathbed
I wrote A Loving Eulogy to My Mother on Her Deathbed, on the Monday before she died and I am include it in the text of this post. It matters to me because it speaks to the power of ancestral connection and the necessity for Griotte Storytelling in the African Diapsora………………..
“I can’t think of a better final day I could have had with my dying mother. Even if she is still holding in there tomorrow, I shall remember and treasure this day for the rest of my life.
I felt a connection, an energy force and a strength from her as she lay dying.
I spent most of the day holding her hand, stroking her face and hair and kissing her on the check
I left her bedside, complete and fulfilled!
I realise the inner longing to have this connection with my mother that had always felt like it was missing
That, ‘interrupted reaching out movement that I have never been able to claw back.
Today several times, usually just before a spasm, she lifted her head and opened her eyes
Sometimes after I had spoken and expressed gratitude and love.
A couple of times in the early afternoon the looked like she wanted to speak and I filled in the words, expressing that I knew that she loved me and Karen, us and that the knowing was profound and deep
At one point in the side evening i felt this swelling of joy and love, of gratitude and deep appreciation to be there, beside her as she elegantly and beautifully made her transition tot he other side, to the ancestral realm
To take her place as a benevolent and giving ancestor
I sit here and close my eyes.
I think of her today, the warmth, the connection, the feeling, the energy
All of this, this other way of knowing, I knew was real
I knew that even though she couldn’t speak or express it, she was feeling the same, listening and hearing me
I felt that I was doing the rituals of transition and passing over
I knew that she was ready for the journey and had her peace with her and me
I am so full of emotion and love
In death, which is just, a passing moment from one place to another
To my mother, our bond will never be broken
You adoring and adored daughter”
The Pandemic Has Come and She is at Peace
She has passed, Coronavirus 19 has come and I am eternally grateful, that my mothers tradition into the next world, came with peace and elegance. Before the world saw, perhaps in a way that so many have not before, ancestral spirits, some bereft of the rituals of death, forced into inhumane trenches of quickly built massed graves. I wonder how many spirits will wander until they find a place of rest.
At my mothers funeral in February 2020, I read an eulogy that I had written a year before as a blog post – Transgenerational love – the essence of what we become! In it I wrote….
“The ‘flow of love’ is transgenerational! In this case mother to daughter as I seek to honour my mother who has Altzheimers. Her friends have said to me, “she is no longer the woman that she was”. And I know looking at my father, that he feels the pain of losing his loved one.
But to me, I see her essence and her soul and her light shining through, she is untarnished in my memory. In fact I feel much closer to her than I have ever done. As I sit here writing this, tears are flowing down my face. I wonder, why that is and want to honour, who she has become.
It seems to me that she was never quite of this planet. She was always elusive, I could never quite grasp her! She has this amazing laugh that people remark on. My parents neighbour Mandy is someone who has been at their side in crisis until my sister and I were able to get to them. She said recently, “I love your mothers laugh, I could hear it through the walls and it would make me smile”.
I felt so strong, loved and loving as I read it. I RE-Connected to what had been forgotten and lost to me, as a child and what was RE-Membered, as an adult.
Love them, find out all you need to know, for when they have gone, there is no returning!