The Rites of Death for
Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times
I get to pick the topic this time!
It is one that addresses a major rite of passage, and perhaps the one that is most frightening and painful.
Over the course of human civilization, beliefs as to what happens to us after our bodies die have changed drastically. Many favor the belief that upon death, we go to a beautiful place and are reunited with loved ones. This is certainly what I like to believe. Not everybody has seen it that way over the years, and we all know monotheistic faiths tend to favor a belief in an afterlife of punishments and rewards that Pagans often reject. Not everybody has viewed it that way. Some cultures believed in one place everybody went. Some believe reincarnation happens immediately after death. Some believe the soul can stay among the living or go back and forth between the otherworld and this one.
This article will explore some of the differing beliefs through history and of course what some of today’s Pagans tend to believe, specifically talking about what my Priest taught me. I will finish with a simple suggested funeral rite and talk about a funerary rite from a publication one of my elders put out before he crossed the veil.
To begin with, let’s discuss exactly how death is defined.
What is death?
Medically, death is simply when the human body entirely stops functioning.
Most simply stated by Wikipedia, “Death is the termination of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death includebiological aging (senescence), predation, malnutrition, disease, suicide, homicide, starvation, dehydration, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury. Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death. Death of humans has commonly been considered a sad or unpleasant occasion, due to the termination of bonds with or affection for the being that has died, or having fear of death, necrophobia, anxiety,sorrow, grief, emotional pain, depression, sympathy, compassion, solitude, or saudade.”
A wonderful link to what is called The Uniform Determination of Death Act is provided below. It is a recommended definition that most States in the US have adopted. It says, “An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.”
While that looks good on paper, all the complex things that an individual and their loved ones go through during and after death is not represented here. Religious groups provide much needed rites of passage, and that allows for closure as well as compassionate support for those who were left behind by the deceased. Not all funerary practices focus on the sacred, though.
Some focus on combating what the dead can do if they return to harm the living, as was the case with Eastern Europeans vampire hunts. Some others focus on how one may convince somebody they are dead so they may enslave them, as is the case with the creation of zombies in Voodoo. These two topics have become romanticized and are such a part of modern horror fun as well as being topics modern neo-Pagans often like to research. Another topic that few Pagans are not well read in is prehistoric burials. While researchers claim presence of burial is proof of belief in an afterlife, we don’t know for sure if that is the case. Read on.
The appearance of burial is thought by some to mean people began to believe in life after death, and were thus religious. I always wondered about that, because the motivation for burying the dead could be as simple and not wanting to watch, and smell, the bodies decompose and to avert predators. My mom, having been in the cemetery business for 20 or 30 years always said funerals were for the living, not for the dead. Burials might have simply arisen out of the aforementioned issues, as well as the needs of folks to have closure and memorialize their loved ones who had gone.
Burial itself predates homo sapiens.
Early possible burials were discovered in the Atapuerca Mountains, Croatia, and are thought to be about 130,000 years old. Now a World Heritage site, this was discovered during construction of a railway. The bodies, numbering in the thousands, were all found in a pit within a cave. Animal remains were found also, as well as paintings elsewhere in the cave. Below is a very interesting scholarly article, which gives more information about the cave and information about remains found within. According to this scholar, chances are, the hominids bodies are contained there due to accidental falls into the pit. Also, however, it has been suggested by others, the bodies may have been cast into the pit by the living, or the remains could have been washed into the pit by water traveling through. It was noted that not just hominid remains were found in this pit, but those of animals as well. Provided is his article below.
Those that are currently the first undisputed burials were discovered in Skhul Cave in Israel, and are at least 100,000 years old. The bodies were found with red ochre on them and they were of hominids called paleoanthropus palestinensis. They were characterized as being similar to both Neanderthals, and homo sapiens. Their facial features were more like Neanderthals with the strong brow and chin, but the brain chamber was more similar to those of homo sapiens. Scientists do not know if these hominids were a result of Neanderthals having babies with homo sapiens, or if they were of a distinct line that has since become extinct. In the various graves found, the hominids were buried with things including flint, animal bones, shells, and the red ochre, of course.
Prior to this, burial like things have been found, but scientists cannot decide if they were true burials or not. While evidence shows these to be deliberate organizing of dead hominid bodies, some experts consider them more easily passed off as coincidence than the paleoanthropus palestinensis burials.
Human beings, and hominids that were a lot like us, have been at this burial thing for a long long time. An interesting timeline that discusses some burials and practices is listed here at this link if you want to read further.
There is a lot of scholarly speculation as to what prehistoric religious beliefs are, and many theories came based on what grave finds were. I have a very unusual opinion about this.
I don’t think we can judge exactly what prehistoric people and hominids practices were based on what we dig up. There was no decipherable system of writing we can refer to, and simply looking at artifacts tells us little if anything besides the fact they used said artifacts for one thing or another.
And I am completely okay not knowing what they used those artifacts for.
Besides what researchers say, I hear a lot of other Pagans insist that artifacts were absolutely religious items, or a specific deity. I get vibes off artifacts sometimes too, but I understand that is how I relate to them, and it is possible that the people who created them related to them in different ways.
Moving along to our next topic in this exploration of death, I am taking a BIG jump in time and fast forwarding to more modern times in Eastern Europe.
Eastern Europe and Vampires
The various regions of Eastern Europe had their own distinct burial practices and what modern folk like to call superstitions. One so-called superstition many of the regions held in common was belief the dead could return and attack and even kill the living.
These beliefs came about for very understandable reasons.
For me, when a loved one has passed, sometimes, they come visit me. They sometimes touch me so that I actually feel a physical touch and turn and look behind me, only to see nothing. I see them in a crowd, or I see them in a dream. I am sometimes absolutely drained from these experiences. Sometimes, it’s just the grief, but some people believe the dead sometimes visit to draw strength from the living.
The first time this happened to me, a friend told me to light a candle for the deceased and put a little food out. It worked. The fatigue vanished. One could argue this was mere coincidence or the placebo effect. All I know is it worked, and I never questioned why. Gradually, the visits stopped too. Was it all in my head? I don’t believe so, but if it was, does it matter? If this worked for me, what harm could it have caused? Things are no different for other people.
One thing about me few people know is that I went through a time when I was absolutely fascinated with vampires. That was back before the time vampires were cool. I did a lot of reading both folklore and historic information. I discovered there were absolutely understandable reasons for belief in them, and there were equally understandable scientific explanations for the phenomenon.
Areas I will discuss include disease and contagion, sunken graves and fallen tombstones, and what happens to the body in the grave. All of these very real occurrences contributed to belief that the dead returned to claim the living.
But what did vampires even do?
Modern film, romance, and literature aside, the classic eastern European vampire was not handsome, sexy, loving, or charming. It was a monster. A soulless killer, and it was brutal and terrifying.
How a vampire was made varied by location. Mostly, though, one became a vampire for one of a very few reasons. 1) Being contaminated by another vampire. 2) Suicide. 3) Excommunication from the Church. 4) Having been a witch, or 5) having been mean or evil in life.
Other reasons such as a certain type of animal jumping over the corpse during the funeral or that the deceased was returning for revenge could cause vampirism as well.
The vampire was seen as a major problem for many reasons. Not only was this thing seen as ungodly, and destined to burn in hell, but if it made other people vampires, they would burn in hell too. Nobody wanted that. Aside from that fear, vampires were rapists and they caused death.
One very famous vampire case was that of Peter Plagojowitz. Not only did he demand food from his son after his death, but his son wound up dead soon after refusing to feed him. Nine people died in eight days, all of whom had reported they had been throttled by him after his death. Another case was of Jure Grando of Tinjan, Croatia. He died in 1656. Not only did he drink people’s blood, but he sexually harassed his widow. Necrophilia is seen as a laughing matter in mainstream culture, but few seemed to have that fetish in past times when it was believed dead people would try to have sex with you.
People noticed that after a certain person had died, sometimes members of their families or the general community started dying one by one. They would find out who had died first, assign the blame for all the deaths to this person, and use whatever remedies they believed would stop the vampire on this corpse. Outbreaks of tuberculosis and other diseases triggered suspicion of vampirism. It is also speculated somebody suffering from rabies would have been accused as well.
Premature burial before the days of machines to diagnose death without a shadow of a doubt triggered vampire accusations, and cannibalism of dead bodies due to starvation did as well.
Those great bodies!
Unfortunately, little was understood of what the human body does after death. If you do not embalm the body, then blood will bubble out of the mouth and the bodies gasses will make it bloat. Descriptions of bodies dug up and being “engorged with blood” with blood spilled on their lips can be accounted for by this. Lack of fast decomposition depended on methods of burial. One woman named Mercy Brown who was accused of being a vampire due to lack of decomposition had ironically been buried in an aboveground structure that was described as being like a form of freezer.
Growth of new hair and new nails and lengthening of the teeth has also been seen as signs of a corpse being a vampire. Truthfully, hair and nails do appear to grow a bit after death. Dehydration of the skin causes retraction of the scalp as well as the skin around the nails, so they appear to be longer even thought they really are not. It is the same way with teeth. The gums recede giving the illusion that the teeth have grown when they actually have not.
Dead bodies do more than just appear to grow, or gas up, or have body fluids come out through the mouth. They move sometimes. Bodies can sit straight up, and have been reported to do so on the death table or in the coffin. Eyes can spring open, as can the mouth. Imagine being at a funeral and having the corpse sit straight up, the eyes and mouth fly open, and a sound seem to emit from the mouth when this happens due to gasses making sounds.
Mom explained to me this is why eyes and mouths are sewn shut, and bodies were embalmed.
One other thing that caused people to suspect vampiric activity was the fact that graves shift over time. While at times a white horse was released into a graveyard out of belief it would lead people to a vampire, graves that were altered that no living person had touched were suspect as well. After all, the vampire supposedly came out of the ground and reburied itself after feasting on the living. It was perfectly understandable the grave would not look the same as before this occurred. What people failed to realize was that those wooden coffins would decay due to water damage and sheer weight from the earth atop it. That would cause the ground above the coffin to sink. Thus it is called a sunken grave. Tombstones would likewise shift due to weather…or when a grave sank. Many of todays in ground burials combat this by using materials that withstand the weather and weight.
I scream you scream we all scream “VAMPIRE!!!!!!”
A short period now known as the vampire craze happened in Eastern Europe in the 1700’s. It resulted in a lot of bodies being dug up and mutilated in various ways designed to stop the undead for good. Things done to stop vampires included the ever famous stake through the heart or otherwise securing the body to the ground to keep it confined to the grave. The vampire could be buried upside down because it was believed the creature would not realize this had been done, and it would just keep digging and digging , thus burying itself deeper. The thing could be beheaded or burned. Blessings from the church also were considered effective in stopping a vampire. The vampire craze did not calm down until the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria intervened and ordered the practice of desecration of graves and bodies to combat vampirism as unfounded and had it shut down.
Although the craze died down in time, belief in real vampires exists to this day.
Voodoo and Zombies
Another undead “monster” that science debunked is that of the zombie.
A lot of white Pagans are fascinated with Voodoo although many have never attended a real voodoo rite nor would they dare kill a chicken in ritual. The focus on ancestor veneration, which is huge for modern Pagans is undeniable in Voodoo. While we share a practice, remember this was designed for people of African descent. They are the ones who cultivated this faith for countless generations before the Trans Continental Slave trade brought them to the Americas where they combined their indigenous practices with Catholicism.
I can tell you from experience, the lwa do not seem picky about race or whether you are initiated or not. They reach out to many, regardless of these things. I would never question the lwa or how they choose who to have a relationship with. I just know the difference between reading a couple of mainstream books on Voodoo and actually being in a closed door ritual officiated by ordained Voodoo clergy.
I have my relationship with Papa that does not entail me keeping communication with ordained clergy, but having seen what the actual practicing initiates do both in the US and in Haiti and Africa showed me this is not something to be entered lightly into. Nor is it something you do temporarily or for fun.
Voodoo often gets a bad rap because this discipline allows for curses, death spells, revenge, and there is a whole group of people trained specifically to use these workings. Torture is not frowned upon by these individuals and harsh physical punishment can be used at the discretion of the ordained clergy if they feel the initiates deserve it. This aspect of Voodoo is conveniently forgotten by white neo-Pagans eager to break from Christianity and find revenge spells when they feel wronged. I have spoken with people from Haiti who claimed many convert to Christianity because they believe Jesus will protect them from harm inflicted through Voodoo.
Zombies are part of Voodoo that fit in with the scary stuff. Zombies are real.
One of the best pieces of literature about Voodoo I have encountered is The Serpent and the Rainbow, a book by Wade Davis. A really fun horror film was made in 1988, which bore no resemblance to the book, but if you like horror, watch it.
In Davis’ book, he investigated the process of creating a zombie. This consisted of drugging somebody, burying them for a few days, and then digging them up once the drug has worn off a bit. According to Davis, brain damage from the drugs or regular doses of drugs keep people in that zombie-fied state. Supposedly the bokor , a sort of sorcerer, creates a zombie and keeps the zombie as a slave. It is believed zombies have no will of their own, and thus do everything the bokor says. If you get fed up with somebody, you can always pay the bokor to go and turn them into a zombie for you.
While Davis’ theories have been criticized and dismissed by some, another possible explanation exists. Naturally occurring mental illness is viewed differently in different cultures. Some researchers have suggested zombies may actually just be individuals who have mental illnesses.
Is it drugs, or mental illness or both or neither? We may never know, but zombies are out there.
Moving on from our scary death topics of vampires and zombies, let’s discuss some modern Pagan funerary customs.
Pagan funerals today
Many of us just go to the funeral and let other people officiate. Let’s face it. Most of us live in families that are not strictly Pagan. So we wear black, go to the funeral home, send flowers, and cry by the gravesite. Just like most American’s do. Yet, even if you are Pagan in a Pagan family, gone are the days of setting fire to a ship at sea or having your servants ritually murdered and buried with you and all of your possessions.
While I was doing a bit of research for this article, I found an amazing you tube video of a lecture on Viking burials that was done at Cambridge University. While it’s over an hour long, it’s a good watch. I actually learned a lot. Here is the link if you would like to watch it.
Times have changed drastically. I highly doubt any of us would be buried with our pets heads in a bowl in our laps or with our family members and possessions.
Different neo Pagan traditions have entirely different practices than one another, of course,. There is one Pagan author’s funeral rite I would like to share parts of with you.
Celebrating Times of Change
Stanley Modrzyk published Celebrating Times of Change: A Wiccan Book of Shadows for Family and Coven Growth. Chapter 5 is Beyond the Veil-The Funerary Rite. This rite made me cry when I read the chapter. In it is embodied the elements of Paganism as well as modern times and could be used by any group wishing a truly Pagan funeral rite.
There are readings for Priest and Priestess, One of the parts I especially like comes from a reading for the Priestess, on page 76,saying “ We meet here today in both sadness and in joy. In sadness because a loved and respected friend (name of the departed) has left us…Yet we also meet in joy in the knowledge that his/her passing signifies that the work of his/her lifetime has reached it’s time of completion.”
Another intimate expression of neo-Pagan beliefs about death is reflected in a song many of us know and love, “Do Not Stand on My Grave and Weep. “ It comes from a poem written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Her poem was twelve lines and is below:
“Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die”
The poem has been set to music by many musicians, and while it was not written by a neo-Pagan, it expresses the belief that life is never ending, and moving from one body to another is just a transition.
Another modern source of neo=Pagan funeral practice comes from the Covenant of the Goddess. Here is the link that shares not only some history as well as suggested workings and some essays.
I am also including the link to one of the eulogies for Issac Bonewichz that ADF did.
His passing was and still is felt by many.
I keep going back to my mom’s words
Funerals are for the living.
As modern neo-Pagans we may believe in communication with the dead, but it is not the same as having our loved ones with us when they were living. We may be happy they have moved on to the next part of their journey, and believe we will join them again in time, but that does not make the time of physical absence any easier to deal with. While we may not believe the same the majority who are monotheists do- that death is final- we suffer as much when we lose somebody to death as anybody else. The rite I will offer will both memorialize the dead and comfort the living.
One thing you will have noticed by now is absent from the rituals I write is music. I do wear devices that allow me to process sound, but I am severely hard of hearing. So music is not something I use in ritual, myself. If you like to sing or chant, insert that anywhere in any ritual I write that you would like to use. For death rites, specifically, I always recommend that if a Highland Bagpiper is available, book them for your funeral.
Bob Dunshire published a Bagpipe Web Directory that lists some pipers for hire. When in doubt, you can always call your local police or fire department, as quite often , they know of a piper who does funerals.
Here is Dunshire’s link
And here is my favorite bagpiper leading a procession at President Ronald Regan’s funeral. Bagpipes have been carried on the battlefields for centuries. They lead celebrations, and memorialize times of grief.
Finally, here is the funeral rite I offer.
-Set up your funerary room as you see fit, but set up a working space where speakers stand. A podium, if available or just a table, as you see fit. A few individuals should prepare the space, and call everybody in once everything is ready.
– You may or may not have the remains present, according to your preferences. It is important that if you are doing a service without remains that you have a representation of the deceased. You may just use a portrait of them, or have things that belonged to them present.
-The speakers should be near either the deceased or the items representing them. While the formal funeral of speaker and audience is not really on that I favor, my rite has the wake along with the funerary service, although this can be tweaked if you like.
-Have this service in the room where the meal will be. Have everybody sitting at tables or in a circle as you prefer for the service.
-There will be multiple parts and readings. Divide these up as many ways as possible.
-This will be open circle and there will be no banishing.
What to bring
-Have those present bring a dish to share for the potluck following.
-Bring one white tealight candle for each attendee. Place the candles in a bag or basket or plate and place on the altar. I use white tealights because 1) white is a universal magical color which contains all and nothing. It represents life, purity, enlightenment, as well as death in some cultures. 2) It is a very affordable way to have a lot of candles available.
-Hand a single candle that is a color or scent that was meaningful to the deceased, or use a white one. This candle will be sent off with somebody and can be used as they see fit.
-Incense or smudging herbs.
-A pitcher of water and small cups, such as Dixie cups.
-Bring whatever you prefer to decorate the potluck table with. You may use the deceased’s favorite colors and flowers. You may put mementos out. If you like, combine the potluck table WITH the altar.
Years ago, I noted a lot of pre Christian Pagans had ceremonial meals and they fed not only the gods, but also the living. Some cultural traditions such as those in parts of China and Africa, regularly set food aside for the dead. Memorial meal traditions call for a place at the table for the dead and food for them is provided while the living eat, thus they share a meal together, just as they did in life. This tradition is one I will incorporate in this rite. This is also a group rite as opposed to one that clergy officiates and everybody else watches.
Part1 – Hail and welcome to this scared space! I welcome you all to the celebration of life of (deceased’s name). Come inside and be seated.
(Then wait until everybody is seated.)
Part 2– (Have somebody light a stuck of incense) (Say the deceased’s name) We call you from the other side to be with us in spirit for our rite to say goodbye to you.
Part 3– (Have the youngest attendee who can safely light a candle light the taper candle either near the remains of the deceased or by their picture or mementos. If they are too young to do this reading, have somebody else read it for them. )This represents the light (deceased’s name) brought into this world, and into all of our lives. Like the needfires of the children of the old gods who have gone before us, we will take light from this light into our homes and take a part of light of (the deceased’s name) with us when we leave this celebration tonight.
Part 4– (Place your hand over a pitcher of water placed on the altar, enough for everybody there to have a little. Say the deceased’s name) Put some of the love you felt for us all into this water, Bless it, and we will drink it later. When you mean for us to, let a message of our life together come to each of us in the silence of our hearts, and comfort us that while we mourn your passing, that we will be together again.
Part5– (Stand over the food table) (Say the deceased’s name) Look upon the meal we have prepared to share with you. Draw strength and be nourished together with us.
Part 6-(Pick up the incense. Hold it up ) (say deceased’s name) Guide our hands in blessing one another, as we bless you. (Use it to first smudge the deceased, then sit the incense by the deceased for a moment. When you feel it is blessed, move clockwise, and take it and bless the first person, who in turn blesses the next person, and so on and so forth, moving clockwise. The last person in turn will be the one blessing the first person. Replace the incense.
Part 7– (Cup hands over the candle) All of you gathered here, focus the love and good memories you have of (deceased’s name) into the light of this flame. (Pause for the attendees to focus on this) Together, we consecrate this flame with the blessings and wonderful experiences we all shared with (deceased’s name). We ask (deceased’s name) to consecrate this flame with the love and good memories he/she has with all of us. Send these blessed thoughts and experiences away with us in our hearts and send with us a part of this consecrated flame into our homes. The steps on our journeys we were fortunate enough to walk with you are a permanent part of the rest of our journey. You have made a valuable impact none of us will ever forget, and one we are grieving has temporarily ended until we see you again on the other side.
Part 8– (Pick up the candles and hold them towards the deceased.) Each of us will light a candle from your blessed flame. We share what you share with us with one another. (Give each person a candle , then put the basket of candles down. This person will first light their own candle from the consecrated candle and flame. Then they will move clockwise, and light the first person’s candle, who in turn lights the next person’s, moving clockwise, until everybody’s candles are lit in this fashion.)
Part 9– (pick up the candlesnuffer) (say the deceased’s name) Thank you for giving each a blessed flame to take into our homes. We snuff this flame to preserve it, and each will relight when we get home. (Each person takes turns, snuffing their own candle, and passing the snugger clockwise. Do not blow the candles out. It is believed by many neo-Pagans that blowing a candle out as opposed to snuffing it out acts as a form of banishing, which we don’t want! The last person to use the snuffer replaces it on the altar.)
Part 10-(Two people do this part. One will pick up the pitcher of water. The other, the cups, and begins to pass the cups to each person, moving clockwise, while the other person speaks. The speaker holds the water up towards the deceased.) We thank you for your blessing, and we first offer a drink for you. (pour a little out on the ground or into a cup) (Say the deceased’s name) Refresh yourself with our love and blessings as we refresh ourselves with your love and blessings. (Moving clockwise, fill everybody’s cup. When this is finished, place any water left over on the potluck table.)
Part 11– Now, all of us can share a memory of (say the deceased’s name. This speaker goes first, and everybody either shares or passes. Once this is done, the food will be blessed and the celebratory meal will begin.
Part 12– (The person who is the elder of the group or who was closest to the deceased should do this part. Stand over the food table) I ask that you all gather in a circle around our table and join hands. (All join hands. ) May the Lord and The Lady bless this food before us. May we all have good health, much wealth, long life, and may we enjoy this meal with our beloved (say the deceased’s name) Blessed Be.
(All say Blessed Be, and un-join hands.)
(The same person will now make a plate for the dead and sit on it and a drink near the remains or the mementos) (Say the deceased’s name) As we have eaten with you in the past, so we share a meal with you again. You and the gods have blessed this food and drink as well as our lives in countless ways.
Losing the connection with your body does not change the fact our lives are interwoven beyond these lives, and we will physically abide in the same world with you once again.
Stay with us, and draw strength as we draw strength.
(All say Blessed Be, and begin the meal.)
Some traditions like to use “Merry have we met, merry shall we part, and merry shall we meet again” at the end, but I am not including it here. You can add it if you prefer.
This was one of the most difficult articles I have written. That is because I am currently dealing with grief from the death of an Aunt I had really bonded with. In a nutshell, I am literally an outcast from my mom’s side of the family. This Aunt was the only one who reached out to me. Now, my family is big. There are people who never uttered a word against me, but they were not around due to distance or because we were not raised together. There are relatives on mom’s side of the family who would never hurt a fly! But, a long time ago, I stopped attending family functions because I was condemned by some of my family for standing up to my mother, who severely abused me. I did, however, spend a lot of one on one time visiting with this Aunt. I attended her funeral two days ago and was thanked for coming by a surviving relative who was unaware of the special relationship. I was in no mood to explain this. I was not in any state of mind to stay composed, and I was unable to be of comfort to any of the other people there. The reality of the possibility that I may never see anybody on mom’s said of the family after this is unbearable, but something I cannot change.
This is the first major death of somebody I was close to since I began moving through degrees in Wicca. I thought I was more prepared for handling things. I thought my view of death would make me immune to falling to pieces and because talking to the dead is so easy for me.
It’s not the same. I will never sit on the couch next to my Aunt and hold her hand again. I will not be able to call and see how she is and I will not get another phone call from her seeing how I am. There will be no more trips to visit and give her a pedicure. I will never listen to any of her remarkable stories again.
She will never take my hand again and tell me that if I ever felt I needed a mother, that I could come to her and she would be as a mother to me. She was the Aunt I could introduce all my friends to. My transgendered friends, my drag queen friends, my left hand path friends, my atheist friends, my housewife friends who did not work, my bad girl friends who got into trouble with me. There was not anybody on the earth who she would not be nice to based on their beliefs or lifestyle.
She was the aunt who always played practical jokes and was full of ideas for fun. In her youth, she wqas very outspoken, and was unapologetic about it, even raising her voice as she saw fit. As she aged, she was very sick, and could not raise that voice above a whisper sometimes.
She always said “I love you, come up when you can.”
She waited for me to come to her after she could not get out and go see people anymore. Now I find myself wondering when she will come back to me.
Hail Aunt Wanda, wherever you have reincarnated to. May we meet again, and happily so.
So mote it be.