Tuesday, August 23, 2011

For My Family On the Other Side

A couple of years ago I was inspired to create a memorial altar for those relatives of mine who had transitioned - primarily grandparents and great-grandparents, but also my mother and firstborn daughter - and to gather little objects to go with their photographs that symbolize for me who they were and what I remembered most fondly about them if I had known them in this life. For those who I had not known - who had died before I was born or I was very young when they died - I asked living family members for information so that I could gather objects, and this was a truly touching experience in that I was able to see myself in them when these pieces were shared with me.

Today I found myself inspired to take photos of the altar (which happens to be made from a cigar box that belonged to my Grandpa Johnny), and to write down memories of them from the perspective of how they influenced my life and who I am now, by who they were then.

I have shed many tears during this process, and now wish to share it all with you. Descriptions below follow photos in the altar top to bottom, left to right.

Memorial Altar For Those On the Other Side

Great Grandfather on my mother’s mother’s side, Popsie. From you, a candy-maker at the turn of the 20th century, comes my love for all things sweet.

Great Grandmother on my mother’s father’s side, Nanny. From you and the silver dollars you gave all the grand and great-grandchildren as birthday gifts I learned how to be generous and the value of kindness and perseverance. And Great Grandfather on my mother’s father’s side, Pampy. I never knew you, but from you and the butcher shop you ran comes my ability to butcher the farm animals I’ve raised for my own food.

Great Grandfather on my father’s father’s side, Ole. I only knew you as a very young child, but from you came my love and ability for playing card games.

Great Grandmother on my mother’s mother’s side, Ollie. I never knew you, but my love and ability for sewing and creativity comes from the seamstress you were with your nimble, creative hands.

Grandfather, father to my mother, Johnny. From you and your hospitality business of restaurant and motel I learned to be of service to others in a similar fashion, and to appreciate the smell of a good cigar. And Grandmother, stepmother to my mother, Eadie (lower couple photo). From you and your excellent cooking skills in restaurant and home came my love and ability to cook all manner of delicious edibles. And from both of you I was given the honor of being born on your 25th wedding anniversary.

Grandfather, father to my father, Pop. From you, a farmer, came my love of raising farm animals and gardens. I remember fondly and miss eating your home cured green olives. And Grandmother, mother to my father, Mabel. From you and your having worked in a jewelry store for many years came my pierced ears and appreciation for the beauty of gemstones.

Grandmother, mother to my mother, Vonnie. I never knew you, for you left this world by your own hand at the age of 27 – leaving behind two young children and a husband – so difficult was your journey here in the absence of support for the depression that took over your life. Yet, through your story you gave me the strength to carry on when my own depression came forth, and the wisdom to ask for help and not go the journey alone.

Mother, Sally. I still miss you so. We were just getting to a place of balance in our relationship when it was your time to leave here. Yet, you left me with so many valuable traits that you are not really gone. From you I learned to ask questions, and to question the answers. From you I learned to love and take care of myself and to set boundaries, yet also to love deeply my beloveds of partners, family, friends, co-workers, all life. From you I also learned to feel deeply and to be okay with that even when it hurts.

Front of Memorial Altar Box
Firstborn daughter, Sashena May. You are an angel that graced our lives for such a short time. From you I learned at age 18 that if I can make it through three nights of hard labor and still hold a mirror to see your arrival, I can do anything. From you I learned how to love somebody deeper than I’d ever loved before. From you I learned that when someone you love deeply dies, like you did at 11 months old, life still goes on, new lives arrive, my life can and did become something wonderful and cherished, and that death is not the end.

To my family on the other side mentioned here - plus all ancestors - I give deep thanks and eternal love for all you’ve given me and for who I am because of who you were. I honor you and keep you near with this altar of memories.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully done as always dear sister. Thank you for sharing the deepest parts of you!