My grandma transitioned at the age of 94. I was 29 and going through my own life transition. I was about to leave my comfy job and life in NYC and start over by building my own company in LA. I was having anxiety around it all plus entering into a new decade made me feel confused.
My grandmother’s death sparked a disconnect for me. For so many years, she was my go to person. Always there to talk and listen, my cheerleader and friend. I always admired her strength and adored her dearly. She was old and ready to let go of life but I wasn’t quite ready to lose her.
As a way to honor her and connect with her, I built an altar. Ancestral altars are used as a way to remember your loved ones who passed away. I learned how to build my ancestral alter from a priest in the Santeria tradition. Many people thought this was voodoo or associated with darkness, but altars are prevalent in most religions, cultures and spoke about numerous times in the Bible as a tool to pray, connect with spirit and to talk with God.
Writer Susan Starr puts it best, “Building an ancestor altar in your home is a time-honoured way to connect with departed loved ones, both physical and karmic, known and unknown, and ask for their blessings. The altar is their home within yours; it is a place for them to stay and a place you’ll know where they are. You can give thanks here, while giving back ancestral influences that don’t serve you. It functions in a similar way to a cemetery tombstone, a locus for attention and remembrance, a place where you can talk with your ancestors and build or continue a connection from the comfort of your home”.
My alter for my Grandma Marie Hunter Suber, allowed me to mourn, celebrate and heal in the time I needed most. I would talk to her, feel her presence and bond even deeper than before. It was significant for my growth and desire to move forward in my own pursuits.
The power of the alter is an ancient mystery that’s still so strong.