Honoring our Ancestors

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Tonight I’m thinking of my grandmother and her healing hands. She was a medicine woman and a nurse. Her ancestry dates back to the indigenous Native American tribes of the Cherokee Mountains. I can recall trips with Grandma to her mother’s farm in South Carolina.  She never hesitated in pulling the car off the side of the road to pick fresh herbs. I was fascinated that she somehow knew she’d find them in these specific locations.

Lately my sister says she can see her energy around me. I believe it. I feel her. I feel Grandma. The moment I was able to get down to the floor to paint, she was the first person I thought of.  I can hear her tell me “you need to sit on down somewhere!” It’s funny to think of her saying this because she loved to be on the move, she enjoyed traveling and planning road trips. She and I are very similar in that way, our love of travel.  When she first saw my paintings a few years ago, she confided in me that she also painted. The memory put a smile on her face.  I can think of the joy it gave her in that moment. I looked at her hands, the metal bracelets; she never removed them from her wrist.  The clanking sound of her sterling silver bangles gave me comfort as a child.  I’d always wrap my tiny fingers around them and count how many were stacked on her wrist; it seemed infinite.

On the day Grandma shared with us the memories of her paintings, it was apparent to me that I needed to capture the moment on camera. We had taken many photos that day, but I knew the photo of her hands would be the most special for me because of what it represented. From a child’s perspective, sometimes all you can see are the hands of the adult, the parent, the grandparent, the aunt or uncle. Grandma’s hands represented so much for me. They symbolized healing, service, giving, ancestry, history and more recently, fellow artist. It has been over a year now since her passing. I often feel her presence near me and around me, especially now, while I’m working on these paintings. I’m grateful to honor her in this way.