After rolling out of bed every morning, I shuffle to a particular spot on my living room rug, take a few deep breaths, set my intentions for the day and then mentally list the names of the people I miss and mourn: grandparents, aunts and uncles, half a dozen pets, lost friends, parents of friends, a few people I never knew personally but left an indelible mark (this year, it was Sharon, Bowie, Prince, Leonard).
These are people I just don’t want to forget. I gather them up and sort of hoard them in my head. Each time someone I love (or someone I love loves) dies, they get added to my morning/ mourning list.
I once told my 70-something mom about this routine, and she laughed, “Oh, that list is going to get unmanageably long.”
That may be. But, for now, it keeps their spirits alive. And, in fact, a few of them now have a job to do.
Several years ago, I was dealing with some sort of pressing decision about work while walking to the gym and chatting about it with my Zimbabwe-born neighbor. After listening to me yammer on, she casually asked me, “Have you tried asking your ancestors for guidance?”
“Ask your ancestors. It’s an African custom; you ask your ancestors first before you ask God.”
I remember thinking: If Gramp were here, would he really want to work through the minutiae of contract renewals? Wouldn’t he rather take a long, well-earned nap?
Actually, he probably would want to help. Grandmom might want to give me a little nudge and remind me how to forgive, be kind, and guide me to go easy on the spice in her pumpkin chiffon recipe.
I’m rarely that specific with my requests, each morning I usually just say, “Hey forebearers, would you all kinda point me towards the right direction in life?” I have no idea if it works, but, I’ve become a little OCD about it; if I don’t do it, I fear I’ll have a bad day.
It made me realize how comforting it is to imagine they’re consultable; and to consider how they might handle a situation. Really, it just keeps them in my life when they’ve long since passed. Meditating on their names reminds me to think about them just once each day and that we’re all one continuous, evolving set of lives. They’re not really gone, so there’s no need to mourn.
Besides, they’ve got work to do.
This week we remember:
- Nancy Davis Kho still jokes with her father
- Jennifer Bensko Ha explains the significance mourning jewelry
- Heather Graham recalls her fast-driving Nannie
- A Muslim American writer opens up about post-election mourning
- Aliza Sherman feels bittersweet about watching her daughter grow
- Whitney Johnson learns from her brother’s death
(Photo: Gabriel Bucataru/Stocksy)