Honoring My Ancestors

As the Great Wheel turns and time moves forward into Fall, I’m reminded of many traditions I’ve experienced over my lifetime.  In my childhood years, the winding down of Summer into Fall was a marker of life slowing down into the important activities of reaping what we had sown.

Alfred Albert Raatz and Theodore Julius Wagner (ca. 1958)
Childhood farmhouse near Oakes, ND (ca. 1981)

 In growing up on a farm, Fall was the time where harvest was nearing its end and we made the ground ready for winter.  We began to tend to all of the various aspects of our property by doing maintenance on buildings, mending fences and arranging our equipment to be stored.  This time of slowing down and gathering our crops often meant coming together with neighbors and family to help.  There was more time spent together as life seems to condense more and more as the temperature drops toward the long winter ahead.  

Mildred and Theodore Wagner (ca. 1958)

When I consider life slowing down from Spring toward Winter, I’m reminded of the parallels of my life and that of people who have come before me.  The Spring is a time of birth and renewal.  Summer is about growth, learning and expanding.  Fall is about reaping the harvest or seeing and experiencing the benefits of all your hard work, and the ending of a cycle toward death.  And finally, there is Winter.  Winter is about reflection on the prior year, resting and healing.  It’s also about planning toward the coming year and preparing for new life to come in the Spring.

In the Christian traditions it is known as All Hollow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead.

Gordon, Larry and Marvin Raatz
Goldie and Alfred Raatz (ca. 1959)

In the traditions of the various peoples and religions, Fall was often in alignment with honoring the dead.  In the Christian traditions it is known as All Hollow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead.   In the Pagan traditions it is known as Samhain.  And the Druids called it Calan Gaeaf.  Some of those traditions also considered Fall the end of their year.

Marvin and Alice Raatz (ca. 1970)

 In my research and some of my own personal experiences, I’ve found that Fall really does feel like the completion of a cycle, or in a way it could be considered a kind of death.  While this can feel very depressing, it is a natural cycle that is part of life on this planet and something we should honor.

The beginning of October is also a very emotionally turbulent time for me.  It is especially turbulent because three significant events happened on October 8th.  On this date in 1936, my mother Alice Marie Wagner was born.  On this date in 1966, my wife Melissa Anne Strack was born.  And on this date in 2007, my father Marvin Dale Raatz was killed in a car accident. It’s is a difficult time because there is a part of me that wants to celebrate the birth of two very significant women in my life and another part of me that still mourns the tragic death of my father.  I try to look at his passing by celebrating his life, and in doing so attempt to merge my feelings together between birth and death.  But how am I ever going to be able to reconcile my emotions around these polar opposites?  Perhaps there is no way to reconcile the feelings.  Perhaps it’s better to honor them both equally.

Alice and Marvin Raatz (ca. 2001)

In the spirit of the traditions of the Ages, for the month of October I am honoring my ancestors.  I am honoring my Father, my paternal and maternal grandparents and all who came before them in my lineage.  I am also honoring those in my life who have come before me that are not of my bloodline.  I believe that part of who I am today can be traced back to not only the genetics of my lineage, but I also others who have touch my life in very specific and lasting ways.  While I believe that I came into this life with my own personality, goals and innate abilities, these things are inextricably woven into all that has happened before me.  Much like the Butterfly Effect, all of the major and seemingly minute actions of the life, the Universe and Everything (before I was born) has come together to create a completely unique person.  In that vain,  I honor all of life that has come before me to this day.

Until the moment that I draw my last breath, it is important for me to remember that my own actions in this life not only shape my own experience, but also that of countless others.

Grave – Marvin Dale Raatz (02/28/1929 – 10/08/2007)

Until the moment that I draw my last breath, it is important for me to remember that my own actions in this life not only shape my own experience, but also that of countless others.  Just as the flap of a butterfly’s wings can contribute to a hurricane’s creation, I have a responsibility to live my life honorably.  I must remember that my actions matter to those that are close to me and to the person I pass in the street.  This perspective is a game changer which moves me outside of my own head-games in into a role of power and influence.  It is in the act of honoring my ancestors that I am reminded of the importance of my life and actions for those who come after me. 

Dwight Raatz,
September 28, 2019