When Grandparents Become Ancestors

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Nell Zegwaart
Remembering Your Ancestors

Content Warning: This personal entry contains concepts, ideas and experiences that some people may not be comfortable with. Proceed cautiously as I make no apologies for describing my experiences and discussing sensitive topics that may help ignite people's potential. In life there is always death (and taxes).

Our minds struggle to comprehend our own mortality - for the most part. Death is something that happens to people around us, and that’s partly why we struggle with it - it’s not happening to us and our conscious mind has no concept of it. Many of us continue each day as if there’ll be another one tomorrow, until shit really hits the fan... and then we become more friendly with death, because suddenly we’re faced with new choices and we realise that given the choice, we’d rather live...

When I learned that my maternal grandmother had been taken to hospital in 2017, it was the first time I'd had to really face a family member dying. I was a small child when my paternal grandfather crossed over, and too emotionally distant from him and his condition was so blatantly terminal that his death was easier to accept.

July 2012 was different.... and this story is about 2012

My maternal grandfather was someone I just didn't get to know. What I did learn about him mostly came from his sister on my infrequent visits to the Netherlands. Over the years she has been able to fill in so many gaps about his life before, during and after the war in Europe. She gave me deep insights into his migration journey to Australia which made me smile inside as she listed the places he had been that I too had been on my travels. There's definitely an ancestral hallmark of itchy feet! Through her I was able to establish a connection to one of my ancestral homelands - a place I have come to love very much. The Dutch seem to love me too and assume I'm a local, until I open my mouth and ashamedly speak to them in a mix of Aussie and Brit english.

The news about the hospital was a shock. I didn't even know Pop was unwell. With barely any time to process it, I took the only chance I had where I was staying and cried openly and freely as I showered for the formal dinner ahead. You could forgive me for not knowing how to behave if you knew that I wasn't used to these feelings or knowing that it's OK to no show for a meal because your blood relative is dying on the other side of the planet. At dinner I drank to assuage the pain I was feeling inside about what was happening and the headache the following morning was a reminder that it was probably a little silly. In that moment though, it allowed me to be where I was and accept that I would not make it home to say farewell.

Tears came again after I spoke to my mother the next day on the phone as I drove to work. Like looking through a windscreen with no wipers, it's just has hard to see through tears. At work, the show must go on so to speak so thoughts of Pop were temporarily put aside.

I flew to Sri Lanka knowing that this short trip made it even more difficult for me to get away should Pop leave us. Some 3.5 hours from Colombo I am at a guesthouse perched on a hill overlooking the mountain ranges. It is a paradise...a paradise I wish my grandparents could see and enjoy with me.

Jet lagged and tired, I slept the afternoon away as the mist crept slowly over the tea plantations and gradually blanketed the hillsides. Late into the afternoon I awoke to meditate and practice a new modality I had learned for connecting to the records of our lives called the Akashic Records.

In my mind’s eye I saw him floating just above his body. His physical body was in a lot of pain and the morphine was helping him to deal with that. Despite the pain, he was at peace with where he was. He was in the process of gathering up all of his energy to leave this place and it saddened me deeply to know that this was happening - yet I accepted it. There was no timeline attached to this process and I didn't think to inquire. I did pray that he took all of his energy with him, lest part of him gets stuck here and he wanders around like those spirits that visited a house I lived at in Prahran looking for my partner to send them on their merry way.

My mother was mentioned because I knew that she would want to be beside him. I was told that he felt her energy and her love, and that her physical presence wasn't needed. On an energetic level, it didn't matter where we were at this time. He wasn't upset that she wasn't there, or that I wasn't there either. It was one of my earliest glimpses into the power of intention and our ability to connect with each other in new and different ways than I was used to.

I was also told that he was overdue to leave. He was staying out of the love he had for his two beautiful and precious daughters. I remember this so clearly and the warmth of those words as I received them. He had watched two wives leave him already and his time had now come - the end was inevitable.

I asked about his life here and whether he had completed it. I was told he had, he had lived a very ordinary life in Australia - one of those lives that is fully resolved and I sensed his energy would not haunt his next incarnation - no visits to the Prahran house then (we used to have a lot of spirits in that house)! He stayed long enough to anchor some energy from 2012 and both contribute to and take what he needed during this great cycle of change.

My meditation ended and I had a bath around 6.30pm.

Much later as I prepared for bed, I saw my sister had sent me a message announcing that Pop had passed away. It was too late to call...what to do?

I wept on my bed in the darkness within only the moonlight to keep me company in this remote house on the side of the tea-hills. Letting the news sink in that he was no longer with us and contemplating what I had lost in not spending more time with him when he was here - we all have our path to walk was my conclusion.

At dinner I remember seeing a white flash not long after we sat down. Was it a bat in the light of the portico or was it Pop passing by? I'll never know.

His sister would tell me years later that she would see a lone spider cross her ceiling whenever someone close had passed over and she would know then that they had gone. If we pay attention to the signs around us, we all have a way of knowing deep within us what is happening - more so than we think.

Opening my Akashic Records again, I called on the Masters to provide some information about my Pop. As I felt his energy, I wept and wept and wept. I have not cried like this for a such a long time, the grief of his loss had allowed something to crack inside me and release all the pent up anguish that I had been carrying around. It wasn't to do with him, but something much deeper.

Pop had passed over and was at peace with Beth and Effie. I never remembered my Nanna's name but here it was...Beth. He was in the spirit realms. With my records open and through floods of tears I typed an email to my mother with my experiences and his messages. I have zero recollection of what I wrote - it was free writing, channeled from him to her.

Many hours since I received that SMS I finally drifted off to sleep. My Pop is no longer with us on Earth, but I know where he is and how to reach him. He is no longer a grandparent, now he is an ancestor... My mother confirmed that Beth was indeed the short name for my Nanna - AMAZING!

The gift he left for me as he parted was the gift to be able to feel again and to trust in life in all its peculiarities. I haven't wept or felt so much for so long, and I feel this happens to many of us.

Something happens in our lives and we don't give ourselves time to process the feelings associated with it, so we squash it down and numb ourselves repeatedly until we can't really feel anything any more. Layer after layer of unfelt feelings build up until one day, something shifts and there can be a release. In this moment in time I didn't push it aside - I allowed the full force of the grief and all the grieving I haven't done to wash over me like the waves of an ocean endlessly crashing against the shore until there is no energy left and all is still.

In death we often remember life because the two are our opposites. Most of us go through life ignoring the reality that we will in fact die one day, and so we live as if death happens to someone else but not us.

After my grandfather, my remaining elders passed over in their own way and each time I was able to connect to their spirit and understand some of the choices they were making in those final days. In 2017 I was initiated into the Munay-ki tradition and taught how to release the soul from the body after death using the Inca Death Rites. I have performed this sacred rite once only (and with permission) and it is a beautiful gift to for supporting our soul family on their journey.

Each elder has had a similar message for me:

  • don't work so hard,

  • enjoy yourself,

  • take care of those you love - hold them close

  • be kind to them, and

  • don't take it all (life) so seriously.

It's as if somehow in those last moments they know that this life is just a game and we all have limited time to make the most of it.

If you've made it this far, I encourage you to explore these questions:

  • If you knew your life had a time limit, what would you do differently?

  • What legacy would you want to LIVE?

  • How would you show up so that you could leave this place knowing that you made the most of it, did the best you could and most of all, enjoyed the journey more than the destination?

These are the questions I have been asked in Coaching and I sometimes ask them too because they are powerful reminders that the 'more to life' we're looking for is available to us right now.

When you're ready here are 2 ways that I can help you #ignitepotential:

  • Personal Coach

  • Retreats & Events

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