Becoming the Elders

These last few weeks have brought me face-to-face with the seasonal encounters with the Ancestors (more than seasonal these days, but let that pass). There are offerings in the usual places and the appropriate altars have been refreshed, dusted, rearranged.

As is my habit, I’ve brought out my genealogy research and poked around on-line a bit, adding to my knowledge of where I’ve come from, who I’ve come from.

I’ve been amazed that family members who were born in 1812 were still alive at the very beginning of the 20th century. I’ve grieved over those lamb-bedizened gravestones and the tiny bones that once–still?–lay beneath them.

A cousin barely older than I became an Ancestor last week and my cousin Dena and I went down to be with the family for a few hours. And then I found out something else.

We are becoming the Elders–the keepers of the family stories, for good or ill. We are the ones now who are asked about great-great grands and their lives and times. We have become our mothers and our grandmothers.

Now we will keep, for a time, the little flames of continuity that bind families and kindred together. It seems like such an enormous undertaking to me. I wonder what stories I’ve forgotten, what little dramas will be lost forever if I do not hold them close and share them out.

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One thought on “Becoming the Elders

  1. I know of what you speak.

    Having spent the more than month at the family manse, I can see it. My dad, better when I left then when I arrived, is winding down. He is 87. My Aunt Mary is 83. She has been in it her whole life. She is our matriarch.

    And she is grooming me to be the next… I know where all the paperwork is. All the files are mine. I will get the ‘mausoleum wall’ (she has placed family members’ important papers, awards, a couple of photos, etc. in shirt size gift boxes. Which are stacked on a couple of shelves with the names on the ends facing out). I get all the address books and photo albums. Hell, I got the Sears CounterCraft stand mixer, with the book and the receipt! It was bought in 1981, just before I graduated from college. It still works!!!

    I never thought about it much before. It had recently come up with the DC Pagan community issues. Katrina Messenger pointed out I was an elder. I have been Pagan 30 years! And in DC for 22 years! Longer than some of the self-proclaimed leaders fighting around here have been alive. And I know they are all converts, like me. And these smart-assed kids whose working also brought justice on them don’t want to discuss it anymore, because they don’t know how to heal a community they helped damage and because they don’t want to take responsibility for themselves.

    Ooops! That’s a rant for a different place and time.

    And then I went back, and I realized I was becoming a family elder. After dad and Mary come us 5 cousins.

    I’m sorry about your cousin. I lost one at 23 when I was 20. It sucks. And makes you note mortality.

    This is much longer than I planned. But, it was a moment that spoke to me. People becoming Elders need to speak when moments speak to them. Otherwise, the very few visionaries after us may not be heard at all.

    Love you!

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