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Roots of the Farrar Family Tree

There’s a certain type of grief when a matriarch dies. The heart aches with a knowing that the ancestral roots have rearranged.

This weekend my beautiful 100-year old grandmother passed away and the sadness has moved through me like the fog of a forest. Sometimes dense and thick and then light and more ethereal.

For a century my grandmother Ruth has been a sturdy, majestic tree of the Farrar family. Like a champion tree--the largest of its kind--or a titan, I have grown next to and in her understory for so long that I didn’t realize how much her roots were my roots. How much sunshine was filtered through her branches to reach me as I looked up.

And how much I relied on her steady presence in the periphery as a part of my own grounding. Now with her in a different form, I feel how our family’s generational gravitational center has shifted into a sense of uncertainty.

In the redwood tree world, when a parent tree dies, its roots re-sprout and provide nutrients to root system of a the decaying tree that feed other trees. Then a new generation of trees rise growing outward from the stump's perimeter, they naturally arrange themselves in a circular pattern--often called fairy rings. It will take time for this new ring to fully form around my grandmother, but her death will hopefully provide the nourishment we all need to reinvent, rise, and root from her ancestral ashes.

My grandmother outlived two husbands whom she loved dearly, and as with many in her generation being a mother and partner was her identity. One year at Christmas I was amazed she let me look at her astrology chart, but she only wanted to know why she had been so lucky in love. She couldn’t fathom why/how I wasn’t married or that it wasn’t my most important focus. She wasn’t necessarily a soft, cuddly grandmother, but more like a cat (she was a Leo) she would want to be in proximity but I wasn’t always sure how much she liked me. We didn’t understand each other, but I knew she loved me dearly and I had a deep loving reference and respect for her.

Memories of her permeate every phase of my life. In my youth it was the fireflies at the Farrar family house in Ohio and the smell of fresh mint growing by the side of the house. When I was in elementary school she and my step-grandfather visited us a several times when we lived in Germany and I appreciated her love of travel. Telling me stories of when she drove around France with friends when she was younger. As I got older and became more individuated from my family, I became less who I think she thought I would be, but I still treasured holidays with her. And the phone calls when I would inevitable be on my way somewhere and be late because I couldn’t pass up the chance to talk to her. The fact that she used an iPhone and had used it to phone me in her late 90s was truly amazing to me.

I get my eyes from her and probably some of my coldness and distancing nature.:) She would tell me about her maiden name Swanson and how it was from Svenson, her Swedish family name. Not a family of feelers, but a family of keen intellect and strength (she didn’t say that part, but I felt it). She is the side of my ancestry that I feel my traditional side poking through and perhaps even some of the more hidden patriarchal values.

A part of my sadness sits in knowing how much I didn’t know about her. That we talked about ideas or things, but I would have loved to hear more about her life. Even the parts she kept secret…like her work with the Navy that she was always vague about. I wanted to know her favorite flower or food, what it was like being a mother of four children during a time when women couldn’t even have a checking account. I couldn’t tell if she was actually religious or just out of proximity to her partners. She was so smart and scientifically minded I wasn’t sure if she actually believed.

A few months after my step-grandfather died, she blossomed, her humor become even more striking and I felt her differently. I knew she was lonely, but something about not being with a man for the first time in her life, her own life force shone through. She felt less opinionated and more open. She faded a bit more after then, saying how much she didn’t want to be here and how uncomfortable she was.

And I think our family also feels relief she is gone as she has been ready to go for a while. I couldn’t figure out why she was holding on. I know she was disappointed not to have a great grandchild, maybe she kept hoping it would happen? Or perhaps she simply couldn’t let go, didn’t know how. Now I believe she knew how much intrapsychic energy her life held for all of us, she was worried what would happen if she passed.

The evening she died I was up late into mid-morning in meditation and prayer as I had been for several nights as she became unresponsive. My candle went out around the time she passed and a few hours after my father arrived to see her. It felt right for her to go, but still so sudden, even after 100 years.

Like some souls who hang around after death to say farewell, she left so quickly it shocked my system. I wanted to feel her more, wanted to know she was near, but she had deep loves to return to in her life after life and rushed off in a flash.

She was an imperfect and beautiful wise woman whose love I feel deep in my bones, even now that she is gone. I yearn to know more about the long story of her soul, and keeping my heart and ears attuned for when she stops by to whisper in dreams or feel her brush my cheek with a kiss.

And in her death it will forever transform the Farrar family tree. Hoping all of our roots find a new center and grow into the places where hers met ours forming a new circle of life and love around the space she holds in our hearts.


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