Every year for Samhain I create a special ancestor altar to honor all of my beloved dead, but this year I did something a little different. This year I created an altar honoring just one specific relative-- my Gram, who died last June.
Gram was the last grandparent I had, all my other grandparents died when I was still in my teens. Although I grieved for her at the time of her death, the trip back to Iowa for her funeral seemed almost unreal. I wondered if the reality of losing her would hit me harder at Samhain, when I remember my beloved dead, and it has. And so, to say a final goodbye, I created a very personal altar in her honor.
I gathered all the photos I had of her and chose my favorites. Photos of her as an infant, a toddler, a teen, a young married woman, a grandmother. For an altar cloth, I used the quilt with embroidered panels that she made for me when I went away to college. I also included a couple of framed cross stitch pieces she made for me to decorate my home with after I was married.
The dress is one of her calico house dresses from the around 1950's. I found it in the attic back when I was in college and used to wear it myself-- with white lace tights, Madonna-style. I can still remember Gram shaking her head and saying, "Why you want to wear that old, ugly thing is beyond me." My Gram was a lady who always had a linen handkerchief in her pocketbook or tucked up her sleeve, so I included one of her monogrammed hankies and another with a lace edge on her altar, too.
Gram used to have a little sun room in her house that had window shelves full of African violets. I got my love of African violets from Gram and so of course her altar had to have a couple of those lovely, blooming plants. I put each one in a milk-glass pot just like she always had them. After her funeral, I brought home half a dozen milk-glass pots from her sun room.
The baby-doll was a gift from Gram and Grampie when I was just a little girl. Gram and my Great-Aunt Phyllis made and entire wardrobe for her-- embroidered nightgowns and rompers and dresses-- even a little wool coat and hood. The bible is Grampie's, which always sat on one of the end tables in their living room.
The cookie jar is part of the set of cannisters I have in my kitchen that used to be in Gram's. The cookie cutters are ones from Gram's kitchen too, and I remember lots and lots of sugar cookies that were made with those cookie cutters.
The only items on the altar not tied directly to Gram are the tarot cards I picked-- Death (end of a cycle), The Sun (joy), the 6 of cups (nostalgia), 10 of cups (family celebration) and 10 of pentacles (family traditions).
Creating this altar brought up a lot of emotions and brought back lots of memories. It has been a bittersweet experience. And, in remembering Gram the best way I know how, a healing one.
May the blessings of Samahin be upon you.
16 hours ago