Honouring my Grandmother – Ancestor Work

These hands tell a story. Every line, every spot of darkened skin, every visible vein…

My grandmother is 95 years old. She’s always been strong, both physically and mentally. Wherever she walked, she held her shoulders straight and her head high. She told me “I’m proud of my children, and all that they’ve accomplished. We always tried to give them more opportunities than we had.”

My mother is the fourth of her seven children. Countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren look to her as Mater Familias. Her husband died well over a decade ago, and in her widowed years she finally got a chance to shine for herself.

Now, her mind is retreating into the mist. Her memory doesn’t bother with short term details anymore. She recounts her childhood adventures with a gleeful clarity.

Like how she used to love lying in the flowery fields and watch the clouds, when she managed to escape her chores as eldest daughter.

Or how she turned down the boy who was pursuing her, even though he was from the richest family in town, just because he seemed too dumb to her smart mind.

Or how she lived in fear during the war, up until the moment when her brother, who had been in hiding at a nearby farm for four years, came walking up the path to tell them the war was over. Her mother responded with “Well, I guess I’ll have to make a bed for you then.”

My grandmother carries many stories, and I’m sure I’ve only heard a fraction of them.

These days, I visit her to take care of her. It’s an honour and a privilige to see how her family is coming together to make sure someone is with her day and night. She seems to revel in the attention. She gracefully enjoys the softness with which we take care of her.

Her strength is noticeable in how she still wants to know everything. About her medication. About who is coming when. About what’s for dinner, and make sure I cook it right, like this.

In how she holds my hand, when I ask her to take a picture of our hands together.

Honouring your ancestors can take many forms. The way in which I am honouring this ancestor in this time is physical, gentle, close. It’s loving work. It’s grateful work. It’s ritual work. It’s for Her.

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