In our community we celebrate the Ancestor Feast. This ancient rite has many variations across cultures. I would like to share one example.
On the first anniversary of the death of a dear friend or family member, a great feast is made of their favorite foods and a give-away is planned in which the things that once belonged to this person are assembled on a blanket to be given away that evening. The table is set and one chair is draped with a scarf or other item that once belonged to the beloved one, a photograph of the deceased sits at this place. It is understood that for this meal, the living and the dead come together to celebrate the continuity of love.
Once the food is ready, prayers are said and songs sung. It is a joyful occasion. Plates are heaped high, but the first plate is for the most honored guest, the one who has gone before. This plate is then carried outside and placed beneath a tree, or the food is burned in a sacred fire to travel directly to Spirit.
In every Ancestor Feast the food is so much more delicious, friendship so precious. Stories are told. Jokes shared. ‘Remember when’ is the refrain. By sharing memories, we know we have lived. We affirm our existence. We enact our essential ways of belonging to each other.
After everyone has eaten their fill, each guest, from eldest to youngest, selects one thing to take home from the items on the give-away blanket. The dishes are washed. The evening ends with good-bye hugs.
The love that binds us together does not end when life ends. The love just goes on and on. The Ancestor Feast reminds us of the importance of loving no matter what form our beloved takes – whether embodied or in Spirit – we remain connected. We can visit in dream. We can feel and we can remember. I know I do.