When I was about six years old, I was in the basement of our house with my grandmother — my mother’s mother. She had a kitchen there for cooking in the summertime before people had air conditioners. It was a big space, and I was dancing by myself behind her while she cooked.
I saw her stop and turn around to say something. I wanted to hear what she might say because we mostly never spoke to each other. She mainly spoke Italian, and I spoke English. She asked me a simple question. “Will you remember me? I recall being overwhelmed by sadness by that question. I thought, “How could she have any doubt that I would remember her?” To me, she was the center of all that happened in my life. I told her there was no way I could ever forget her. She turned around and continued to cook. I wonder if my companionship while she was cooking made her feel loved and maybe a bit worried that that love might vanish with time.
While my grandmother died in 1978, she is still at the center of my life. Every meal I cook, she is there. I sense my grandmother in each of my creative acts. The walls of my healing room are alive with her art. Her old furniture and sewing machine fill my apartment. My other grandparents had already died or died soon after I was born. She was the one who connected me to the ancient world that was part of her essence.
My Grandmother’s Roots
My grandmother was from a small town called Corchiano, Viterbo, Lazio in Italy. When I went there in 1984, it was a tiny town on a precipice in the middle of hazelnut orchards and sunflower fields. She had told me stories about a castle, Etruscan burial grounds, and secret passageways that she and her friends used to play in to dare each other’s courage.
Etruscans dominated this land from 900 BCE to the height of the Roman Empire. When I visited this Corchiano, I found that my grandmother’s wildly fantastic stories were all true. It helped me understand that these ancient peoples were still very much alive to the people who lived in Corchiano, which was founded thousands of years ago.
How We Reflect our Heritage
As I continue to recapture my Italian language, I become more curious about my heritage and culture. I began working on my family tree. I found that names repeat over centuries. So do professions. My father, his father, and all my paternal grandfathers were either carpenters or cabinet makers going back five generations. My brothers also work with wood as a pastime. My nephew, who always eschewed construction work, recently announced he would begin working in construction.
On my mother’s side, the men were barbers. I have a talent for cutting hair. The women on both sides of my family worked with textiles. I’ve made many of the essential clothes I’ve worn during my life and have a love of exotic textiles.
Connecting to Ancestors
I’ve always had an appreciation of my connections to my ancestors. I grew up in a household where the adults spoke out loud to those who had passed to share news, ask for their help or complain that they had been left adrift. When I began to go to a Buddhist temple, and I learned about the rituals to console one’s ancestors, it was as if a missing piece had shown up for me.
I began practicing this ritual mostly about ancestors whom I might have known and some for whom I only knew by reputation. A particular situation arose for me that was related to the actions of some of those ancestors. I decided to ask for their consolation as part of my chanting practice. An outcome of these prayers that I had hoped for was that my mother’s suffering might subside.
After a few weeks, my mother called me and said that she fired the home health aides that I had helped provide. She wanted them out of her house. My mother is 90 years old and mostly deaf and blind. She also lives in a large multi-level home with lots of stairs. I took in the news and wondered if there was anything to this consolation of ancestors. Now, who would take care of my mother’s daily needs? I also had some space for this being the outcome for which I was asking.
A few days later, I spoke to my mother, and she said: “I am so happy to have my home back.” I have never heard her say she was happy. Even though I fear for her safety being alone, she is sure that she is much better off.
What We Ask for Might Be Different from What Shows up
I am holding space for how, when we ask for a situation to move forward, that forward movement might not look like what we expect. Any changes can also include new things arriving into our lives that we may not even have known would be essential to us.
A few days later, my friend Jim sent me an email about an Etruscan webinar and I immediately registered.
First, I found that so many of the paintings from Eturia were of people with dark curly hair. I had never seen cave paintings with curly-haired people before. Then, I discovered my Etruscan grandmother. The photo of the statue reminded me of a picture of me. I pulled out my likeness and put the images next to each other and felt this fantastic resonance. When I was 26 years old, I needed a photo for my international driver’s license before my first trip to Corchiano, Italy. I sat with these likenesses and checked into my body. I had a sense that I have found my home—a place where others looked like me. It makes me very happy even though these images are from two thousand years ago.
Later, I recounted this story to my acupuncturist. She explained that connecting to one’s ancestors strengthens one’s kidney energy. Establishing a link to a place of origin enhances one’s earth energy—both areas of weakness in my body.
The Help We Receive Is from Timeless Sources
My work in reaching out to my ancestors is unveiling so many new ways to be with who I am and how connected I am to the expanse of time, space, place, and energy. My Wholebody Focusing training supports me in trusting what my body feels and enhances my spiritual connection to this ritual that connects me to my ancestors.