Celebrating a life… it seems so simple, and yet it really is anything but simple.
Last fall, my grandmother passed away, and we just celebrated her life on the weekend. She was the grand-daughter of Mathew Bernard, the man I blogged about in this post; he was my great, great, great grandfather.
When she passed away, every family member knew that our grandfather was waiting for her… My grandfather adored his wife, and it’s clear in just about ever photo of them together. She was always the quiet one, and my grandfather was always loud, boisterous and obnoxious, but that’s what we all loved about him. She was the yin to his yang, there really is no other way to put it, they seemed like polar opposites, and made it work!
When we were told of the celebration of life to happen in the spring, my husband committed us to the 5 hour drive before I could, and it warmed my heart to have him know how much it meant to me to be there for it. Golden Lake is located between Algonquin Park and Ottawa, and I was looking forward to being there for a Native Indian ceremony; the first one I’ve ever attended.
The added bonus: when I emailed my parents to let them know we were going, I was pleasantly surprised to get an email back the next day, they were going as well. Their trip was 16 hours long, one way, and required four hotel stays along their trip. I was ecstatic to get to see them after a year and a half… that was another reason to be celebrating!
We enjoyed a sunny, warm drive up to Golden Lake, taking a different route so we could enjoy some different views than what we were used to on our usual route up that way. When we arrived, we found out where to stay (it wasn’t great, but hey, the kids thought it was an adventure!) Caleb had a double bed to himself and absolutely loved it.
When we all met at my uncle’s house, my dad opened the door. It was a rush to throw coats and shoes off so we could get some hugs in! We were able to enjoy some social time with family we don’t often get to see, before we headed to the Elder’s Lodge for the ceremony, to celebrate the life of an amazing woman.
The best part of our time there was flipping through the numerous old photo albums my grandmother had kept over the years, documenting her life with her husband, and all her kids, and the families of her kids. She kept every photo that every family member sent her (and some we wish she hadn’t kept!) A large portion of photos were put on a display board for everyone to look at, and it was very moving to see her through so many stages of her life, celebrating holidays, birthdays, love and life.
I lost count of how many times I approached my parents for a hug, and said “Just because I can.”
When the shaman finally arrived, we all stood, and he drummed and chanted in honour of my grandmother. Even though he used words I couldn’t understand, it was pretty emotional, and very touching. When he was finished, he apologized for our loss, and left, while my uncle took my grandmother’s ashes and gathered us all outside to the water’s edge (the actual Golden Lake), and we took turns tossing her ashes into the lake.
I didn’t even get a chance to explain any of it to my boys before they were in line, taking handfuls of ashes, and like everyone else, tossing them into the water. When our youngest overheard my husband and I talking about it, he was kinda grossed out when he found out what the ashes actually were… it was kind of comical, and lightened the mood a little.
Up until this weekend, my Native Indian heritage didn’t seem to captivate Tyler, but I’ve always told him whatever I knew or whatever I’ve learned/found out. My mom gave us some Native Indian literature to borrow, and one of the items was a book, called Algonquin Conversations, and inside, it explains how to pronounce different words and phrases, and it includes a CD. He studied it on the drive home, and I’m looking forward to spending some time looking at it, and making a copy. Now asking about getting his status card 🙂 That really makes me happy (and forces me to get my butt in gear to get mine!).
Tell me about your heritage! What kinds of interesting things have you learned about your past?