So excited today, in advance of the launch of the book itself on Monday, to be able to share a wonderful Guest Blog from an amazing woman who I consider an elder and a mentor as well as a dear friend. ALisa Starkweather is the founder of many women’s initiatives including the Red Tent Temple Movement, Women in Power initiations, the Women’s Belly and Womb Conferences, Daughters of the Earth Gatherings and her acclaimed women’s mystery school in New England, Priestess Path. ALisa has 28 years of experience working with the empowerment of women and girls. She is the co-producer of the documentary, Things We Don’t Talk About; Women’s Stories in the Red Tent and a contributing author in the award winning anthology Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership; Where Grace Meets Power. ALisa’s online work will re-open in late October in her five week teleseries, Answering the Call; Birthing Your Fierce Feminine Life. www.alisastarkweather.com
Inside of my own thoughts I harbored more than concerns. At five years old I was downright indignant that she wasn’t who I thought she ought to be. “I mean look at her” I would say to myself. “Where is her white hair? Where are her spectacles? Where is her rocking chair?”
Everyone knew that a real grandmother was old, dowdy and made you cookies in the kitchen right? What kind of a grandmother would people mistake for my own mother? And to further my case she worked! With all men! Selling insurance door to door she was the first professional woman I ever laid eyes on and she made sure that in anyone’s mind she would be seen as first class.
For the next four decades of my life until her death at 90 I hardly ever remember seeing my grandmother unkempt or being less than sharp as a tack in her mind. Having lived through many of life’s hard and bitter consequences, including the Great Depression she resolved to lay out her adult life like fine white lace, blanketed over her pain with some grit thrown in to the gaping porous holes.
At the young age of twenty my grandmother gave birth to her only child, my mother. This is how it came to be that my three siblings and I were her one and only focus for under deserved spoiling and often also for overly opinionated critiques. She also became my Grand Mama who, even up until the time she departed, tracked with care and devotion every detail of our lives and faithfully let us know how much we mattered to her. She modelled independence, financial freedom, and though she did not mean to, her musical free self slipped out between the cracks giving me future passage to my wilder self. Even now I can still see her eyes moist with tears from a good laugh with us.
I was with her in her last hours. From a fall that she took, my mother took her to a nursing home and on her fourth day there when I heard that she was ailing, I promptly, in the middle of the night got on a plane to Florida. Instinctually I knew that once she arrived to a home other than her own she would lay down rather than choose to live a captive existence. That woman was born to be free. My mother said to her the day before I arrived, “Mom, what is wrong with you?” and my grandmother looked at her and replied, “Ginny, I’m dying.”
Like the great tree in the forest, it is unfathomable that she would ever leave us. That night as her kidneys and organs began to shut down and she was between the worlds and no longer open-eyed, I touched her tenderly and spoke to her like she was now my own baby child. I unabashedly wept and wept from missing her already. The nursing home aid came by and saw an old withering woman on the bed, finally the frail grandmother my young immature child had yearned for so many years before, and asked why I was crying so.
This is my grandmother, my rock, my old growth tree in the forest, my sweetheart, my Granny. Can’t you see what a powerful force is leaving us? I didn’t say anything because how can you describe 90 years of her sovereign personage to someone glancing in on her last hours? Instead I lay my head on her still rhythmic heart transfusing my own with her essence – all she ever gave me and vowing silently to live her life forward in new ways as her granddaughter, choosing to forgive her for every hurt and asking her forgiveness for any ways I disappointed her, believing this was death medicine for us both, another way to lift up her heavy anchor on earth.
Her lessons, some spoken and some not are inside. Put any child before me and the games and songs she played come back to me to offer the young. “With bells on her fingers and rings on her toes. She shall have music wherever she goes” was the spell chant she sung over me not knowing the magic she spun would become my path. It is her voice that I hear when I push too hard, too fast, too much because she called me one day on the phone and said, “Conserve yourself my dear. You need to think ahead of how long this long life journey is. You need to make it all the way to my age and to do that you cannot use all your energy now.” With no grandchildren yet of my own, I climbed a mountain some years ago and in the tall grasses hidden from me I heard the voice of a little girl child speaking to her grandmother. It was this exact moment that I suddenly understood the hidden message in my grandmother’s words. She was warning me not to leave this life too soon. Bold and loud I heard her now. “You must be here for those coming after you. You will be an important person in this young one’s life. Stick around. You have a big job that you have not yet embarked on and nothing can be so important for you to miss that life appointment up ahead. Your grandchildren need your stories and your wisdom. Take good care of yourself honey.”
It did not help me at all that she was ninety when she died. You can tell yourself she is old and it is time for her to go but it is always too soon. Sleeping next to her I wanted to grasp in my memory even her snores. Her root systems were throughout me and her death was felt in the deepest core part of myself. I cried buckets for a year and every tear was my ode to our love. Over a decade later I still find myself talking to her, so thankful that she left me with a song two days after she died. Driving her car, I began to talk to her departed spirit to I let her know that I was going to turn on the radio and she could give me a message if she wanted to. I would be listening intently. It happened to be a Sunday and of course it was in music that her lesson came. Over and over again rose a chant from the radio station repeating itself until I could learn the tune. These words rose to meet me,
Oh the mysteries of Grace
Some day you’ll see me face to face
But for now, you must live your life
Live it with faith
That you’ll see me again.
Where I see her, is in my self. Not when I look in the mirror, though certainly the white hair and wrinkles are increasing. She is present when I look in my own grandmothered heart. She leaves me with her namesake, Grace, and a log on my heart’s fire.
Listening to our Grandmothers will be released and available on Monday 16th September. Check back here then to find out how to get your copy of sign up to the mailing list HERE.