Beloved Dead

My mother and I have a tradition of going out to dinner on Friday nights. 98% of the time we go to a local Mexican restaurant and unwind with chiles rellenos and margaritas. During the dinner conversation I said that we should make a visit to a nearby locale as it was July 18th. She agreed, so we made our visit…

26 years ago this morning, she found my father dead in bed. The weeks before his death (I was 7 and not quite of the awareness to realize what was happening), she and I were sleeping downstairs on the fold out couch. What I remember of that morning is waking up to several people in the house, including the pastor of our church, and a state vehicle in the driveway. Mom hustled me out to my cousins’ house around the corner, I was confused and scared and couldn’t see for not having my glasses. A little while later my mom came by the house. Originally I had forgotten this next portion, she told me, and she has since forgotten. She came in, sat me down, told me my father was dead, and my first reaction was “oh, I knew that.”

If only I could have known then to be conscious of that keen sense for death. That’s neither here nor there.

Tonight we cleaned up my father’s headstone, paid a visit to his sister D. who passed last fall and her husband, then visited their other sister E. (who died when I was 5) and her late husband. E.’s marker had a great deal of grass growing over it. We’re going to go back there soon with a shovel and space and clear up her marker some more.

One of the aspects of polytheism I love is that just about all traditions also come with ancestor veneration and teachings of some sort that the dead who have passed still watch over their descendants and care about their lives. I think it makes death a much less frightening and “final” thing. I’ve had some interesting independent, third party confirmation of this fact. This is part of why my everyday jewelry includes a gold bracelet that originally belonged to my namesake. Mom gave it as a gift to me when I graduated college. I have another charm bracelet of hers that I got when I turned 18. That is rarely worn as it has a habit of getting caught on things, and it breaking would devastate me.

Hail to the beloved dead. Thank you for keeping watch over us who are living.

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