Re-membering the Dead
This week I celebrated my birthday, except it was an exceptionally bittersweet day … The afternoon before my birthday I found out that the man I consider and love as my childhood father and spiritual father was dying. The morning of my birthday, I was told he had died in the night.
Before now, I have loved, lost and grieved my adopted Navajo mother and a man I referred to as my “Spirit-Grandfather”. Each of them taught me so much and allowed me to unfold as I needed to at the time. The relationships were not perfect …; these were multi-faceted, loving, poetic, challenging, supportive, joyous and in all we focused as much on the spiritual as the profane, in differing ways.
Sitting in a castle dungeon in Germany, writing an essay on the Holocaust, the sunlight streaming through the open door, when suddenly all went dark … a tall man stood in the doorway, like a shadow, the backlit sun obscuring his features in darkness. His booming voice filled the dungeon as he began, without any greeting, to recite poetry to me in German. This was the moment I met my Spirit-Grandfather.
Travelling through the New Mexican desert with my adopted mother, visiting Hopi First Mesa. The Hopi women staring suspiciously at the Native American and the white woman, wondering how the hell we fit together. Shimá, my mother, explains to them that I am her adopted daughter. The women smile and laugh and open their arms welcomingly. They feed us blue bread which is so fine that it breaks apart like ashes and floats off in the wind as I laugh.
Visiting my childhood father at the monastery where he was abbot. He hugs me hello and it’s the best and safest hug I have every experienced. I cry. He sits me down with a bowl of tea. I am fascinated that the monks drink tea and coffee from big bowls. My father tells me he refuses to hear any confession from me, that I am a child and have committed no sin. Instead we pray and then he recites poetry to me. This time it’s his turn to cry as he always does when he recites poetry. I hold his hand and we sit quietly before the Muse.
The memories are in my blood. They reside within me. May Ma’at’s feather be on their tongues. May they pass into the Du’at. May their souls be elevated so they join the blessed Aakhu. I grieve the loss of them, yet I know they are not truly lost, merely dis-placed, a shift in time and place, multi-layered eternity. Like Isis re-membering Osiris, so my memories allow them to be both dead and alive.