Ritual of Grief and the Dead

Today is the 1st anniversary of my father’s death – yes, I do suspect he chose April 15th on purpose. My family members have an uncanny knack for choosing the days of their deaths, and my father opted for a punchline. Death and taxes, very funny Dad.

In Wicca there are no set traditions of memorial, and since my religion differs from my family I always cross lines when I do things like this, but since they are necessary for my own sense of acknowledgment – which means more than comfort in many ways, really – I find ways to blend on my own that my immediate family doesn’t really appreciate. What you see here is a sort of amalgam of Polish traditions of ancestral acknowledgment as I very loosely understand them, my own creative energy since my father actually liked my poetry and small modern things my father enjoyed.

In the background, “Any Dream Will Do” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat is playing. He took me to see Donny Osmond for my graduation present, and proceeded to circle a single block of Chicago for three hours while waiting for the show to start. It may also have been a plot to prevent my mother from dragging us to the Chicago Art Institute, because you can be sure we would have missed the show altogether if that had happened. Despite my passionate love of art, I really hate the CAI thanks to the methods of parental exposure. I know he was doing the “oblivious freakout” thing to save me from that. It was one of his best weapons.

The altar is a picture of myself and my father I printed out, set up on a cardboard backing. Behind it is a peace candle I bought at a local botanica, and in front are rosaries and crucifixes my grandmother made sure I inherited. I have no idea how or why I got the Polish Eagle embroidery, but according to certain revelations my Polish ancestry is highly relevant to my spiritual purpose in this life. The second candle in front is specifically for Dad. There are also cupcakes – Mike’s 30th was two days ago and my dad was quick to go sniffing for cake – and Jagermeister and strawberries. I really would have preferred to get some mead or one of the funky Polish or German beers Dad liked, or even vodka but if I remember correctly he’d drink just about everything. He also loved soda pop, but I really don’t like having it in the house so I made do.  The food is sitting on a pentacle plate that my sister carved years ago; since the ritual is about allowing him to see the life he helped create, she deserved some representation, too. In the cauldron is copal, which is a callback to the Catholic upbringing he was kind enough not to force me to participate in. I had actually wanted to use a picture of my father from his 20s or 30s that’s black and white and all 1950s, but it only ever turns up when I’m not looking for it. So, frustrated as I was, I opted to use this picture I found of myself with my father that for whatever reason wasn’t used in his funeral montage.

My husband put a bunch of Al Pacino movies on Netflix on-demand for me to pull up, so those will be playing as I go about my day. I never did get Dad’s fascination with mobster movies (did he know some or something?) but he went to every single one he could see. So that’s playing in the living room while I putter elsewhere. I also set up my flickr on slideshow so he can see wedding, honeymoon pictures or whatever else he might like to catch up on.

I am Wiccan. Just because my relatives are dead doesn’t mean we don’t talk, but it still does nothing to alleviate the pain of losing them.


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