Life in Birth and Death
Last Thursday it was both my 59th Birthday and the one year passing of my father. It was a poignant day, full of bittersweet memories of what I have been gifted from my father and the recognition that I won’t see him again, at least in this lifetime.
But he is on my ancestral altar and I talk to him constantly. Those of us born and living in the African Diaspora who are RE-Membering, know that our ancestors walk by our side. They are with us daily, we honour and respect them, we feed and water them.
On the Ancestral Path
For the past seven years I have been on an ancestral journey, it started long ago, but the day that I stepped into my first Family Constellations workshop I knew that I was witnessing an African Healing Ritual. Since that day I have been learning and deepening my understanding of the ‘Ancestral in the constellation.’
It has been a long journey that has included reconnecting to my parental ancestral homeland and gaining my Guyanese Citizenship. I travelled to Burkina Faso in 2016 on my first African Healing journey and worked extensively with the renowned Elder – Malidoma Some. During 2016 I attended a 5 Day Ritual Healing Village with him in upstate New York and a 5 day Grief Ritual in Canada.
A Modern Grief Ritual
By 2018 I had done extensive family research and taken a DNA test. I found my way to Benin and a Fa priest and community, undertaking a number of family rituals for the generations of my family who had been forgotten in the diaspora. It was an intense and humbling experience. When I returned home and told my father he said that he was glad “Darling, I knew that you were searching.” he said.
And so last week on this day of birth and death I pondered, ‘what would be a fitting tribute for my father. How could I create a Modern Grief Ritual that would honour and respect him? By evening I had decided and at 11.05pm, the moment that he transitioned a year ago, I posted to Facebook.
My Father – Reginald Edwin Riance Welch
In my tribute to him, I wrote……..
“This is a picture of my father, he passed away a year ago today, on my Birthday today! I spent all day thinking about whether I should post in his memory, to FaceBook?? I wasn’t sure if it was OK and right.
And then I went online and found a dozen messages from friends wishing me a Happy Birthday and I realised that maybe this is just a Healing Ritual of the 21st Century!
My father was larger than life, he loved life! I think he would have liked to be remembered and celebrated. He broke conventions! He went to Fortnum and Mason’s in London in the ’50s and ’60s for his Christmas ham. He went to the Theatre and Opera. He loved Shakespeare and Classic Literature. He loved Nina Simone and James Baldwin.
He was proud of being Black and Guyanese and he didn’t let anyone tell him that he wasn’t good enough!! In the world that we live in today when it seems like we are going backwards in understanding our past and our history. I ask myself, what did it take to hold both of these ‘Ways of Knowing?’
Strength, Endurance, Pride!
Give him alike! Give him a Love, I miss him. R.I.P Reginald Edwin RianceWelch 1929-2018
It wasn’t the 78 Likes that moved me, it was the 43 comments from friends who knew him and some from those who only know me through Facebook. I was amazed by the many beautiful comments. From my friends reminiscing on their reflections of meeting and talking with him, to comments about his photo and the ‘twinkle in his eye’.
Writing this I feel deep emotion because my mother and father left Guyana in 1953 and I wasn’t able to gather a community a year after his death to celebrate him. And so this Modern Grief Ritual on a social media site that I have never much cared about, has shown me that I have work to do to expand my thinking about what constitutes community ritual in 2019.