Honoring the Ancestors

by Moira on June 23, 2014

(This is the second in a series of posts honoring Angeles Arrien, and the lessons I learned from her.  The first is here.)

“All my ancestors live undiminished in me and will continue to live, united with me, in my descendants.”
—Miguel de Unamuno

Many indigenous traditions believe that the male ancestors stand behind us on the right side of the body, and the female ancestor spirits stand behind us on the left side of the body. They believe that the ancestor spirits are invested in seeing that the current generations and the generations to come fulfill their dreams of life purpose.   

—Angeles Arrien, Honoring the Ancestors

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of my father’s death. I could tell the story of those precious last few days with him, and the sacred experience of easing his transition from this world. Instead of sharing how he died, I want to share how he lived.

The youngest of five children, he was the only one to move far from the small town in upstate New York where he was raised. I imagine that after being stationed in Great Britain during the war, that life was too small for him. He moved first to San Diego and became a tuna fisherman. There he met my mother and moved with her to Portland, OR.


Charles Ronald Mallison

This is not the highest quality picture of him, but it is one I love because his spirit of adventure and fun-loving nature shines through. Lying on the beach relaxing (an iffy proposition on the Oregon coast, even in mid-summer!) was not his idea of a fun vacation. Instead, he wanted to be out exploring parts of the state, of the country, of the world that were new to him.

During the summer of 1966, this meant a six-week long sojourn to the East Coast, combining a family reunion with “American History tour”, visiting Boston, Plymouth Rock, New York City, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington DC.  He led us all with such a spirit of curiosity that it brought the history lessons alive!  And with three of the four us kids studying American History the following year, it stood us in good stead.  And just for fun, he threw in a day in Hershey, PA.

He was an amateur radio operator, and enjoyed connecting with other “hams” all over the world.  He was a member of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS).  In the first grade, I went to school and announced that my daddy had gone to MARS the night before.  I was sent home with a note about fibbing.

Sometime in the mid-60s, he got the “gold bug”.  The family vacations became tours of ghost towns in Eastern Oregon or trips to Central Oregon to pan for gold.  He built a sluice-box and had quite the operation.  Fully aware that he would only ever find a few small flakes, the thrill was in the hunt.

He somehow charmed my mother and I into joining him in a mountaineering class.  We did the rock climbs (after which I swore I would never do that again, and have kept my promise) and the ice climbs.  In the end, my mother persuaded him that she and I were not really gung-ho to summit Mt. Hood, and he ended up taking that trip without us.

In her Honoring the Ancestors reflection, Angie goes on to write:

This old European ancestral song passed down through oral traditions, clearly states how ancestors may support us: 

“Oh may this be the One who will bring forward 
the good, true and beautiful in our family lineage; 
Oh, may this be the One who will break the harmful family patterns, 
or harmful cultural patterns.
Oh, may this be the One.”

My relationship with my father was not without it’s bumps, certainly.  And much of that was resolved in the months before his death.  I feel the presence of his Spirit frequently, encouraging me, loving me.  I hear the whisper, “Oh, may this be the One…”




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