April 24th marked what would have been my departed father’s 69th birthday. As I have written before it has been a struggle figuring out how to honor my father since he was a difficult man in life. When I first began meeting with my father in ritual, I was offering beer and a few good thoughts. Beer, although a clear favorite of his, was an odd choice since it was also his downfall. I justified my choice by reasoning that it could no longer affect his physical body. But in honestly I have no idea what drinks and food do for or to a spirit. I simply gave beer because it was one of the few things I knew he enjoyed. I had no clue how to approach ancestor worship with my father so I just winged it, hoping that eventually I would find my way. Hoping that he would at least appreciate the effort. If not, at least I would help myself in the grieving process.
Now, my practice has changed slightly, I stopped offering alcohol for the time being. Thanks to a suggestion in Haitian Vodou Handbook by Kenaz Filan instead I started offering him blessed spring water. Water to purify and promote clarity on his new spiritual journey. This offering feels more authentic and active. For even when I do not have good words to offer or there are no messages to receive, I can still give this small blessing. It is something I can do even when I am in the angry stage of grieving. “ Hey I do not want to talk and engage you, but I wish for you clarity and peace.” However, I found myself often wishing that “this water brings purification so that we may one day have a healthy relationship.” The water offerings have opened a new door for communicating with my father.
For his birthday, I did a little more than my regular offering. I gave him a present of playing cards. Playing cards was one of the healthy activities I recall him participating in with his friends. After I gave the offering, I played and sang along with a recording of Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday. My Dad would always leave long annoying voice messages on my birthday singing this song. It drove me wild back then but now it is one of the few precious memories. When it came time to snuff out the candle, I whispered to my father “ I miss you.” It was the first time I was not stuck between angry and confusion. For the first time, I allowed myself to remember and embrace the good side of my father. I allowed myself to set aside the beer drinking and angry man long enough to honor the funny playful dad.
Happy Birthday, Dad.