Image of the Sague family Day of the Ancestor's Altar
Tau My Relatives as I prepare to gather with my family this evening for our annual ceremony to honor those who have traveled to the Realm of Koa Bay (the abode of the departed souls) I realize that this year our ceremony will be particularly emotional for me. Our family here in Pittsburgh follows the Caney Spiritual Circle tradition of ceremonially observing the time of the year during the latter part of the Autumn season as a time to remember and honor those members of our family who have gone ahead of us to join our forbears in the realm of spirits. We do this in a specially set aside part of our home that we call the Meditation Room. One wall of this room is dedicated to the ancestors and it is decorated with a series of objects that we in the Caney call "memory tablets". The memory tablets honor the ancient Taino tradition of placing the bone remains of departed relatives in large gourds which were hung from the rafters of the homes by ropes and clay bowls that were buried under the house. Our memory tablets are small (about 6 inches long) wooden vertical boards with a horizontal shelf attached at the bottom end and a small hook screwed to the top end. The board is hung up flat on the wall and a small gourd is suspended from the hook by threads or strings while a tiny clay bowl is placed upon the little shelf on the lower portion of the tablet. These two containers hold actual ashes of the relative, or if these are not available, ashes from a ceremonial fire in which objets have been burned which are symbolic of the departed person.
Oftentimes the ashes that we use are acqured from burning bits of the loved one's hair or fingernails in a ceremonial fire at home. If these are not available a bit of a plant or flower that was loved by the relative in life or a picture of an object that this relative was fond of will suffice. The tablet is also decorated with a photo of the relative. We have many such tablets arrayed in rows on our Memory Wall.
We will gather this evening in front of this beautiful memorial to our ancestors and light the candles and burn the tabonuco and sing the song of crossing over as we have been doing for years. But this evening this ceremony will have special significance to us. My mother, Dona Consuelo Rosa Machiran De Sague was a vibrant, intelligent and energetic woman. She lived a full and eventful life. She dedicated her energies and inspiration to her chosen profession of teacher both back in our native land, Cuba where she taught elementary school and highschool, and then later here in the United States where she taught college Spanish. Then soon after her retirement life dealt a cruel blow to this beautiful person who has meant so much to me and my sisters. She came down with Alzheimers. This terrible disesease that steals your memory, and then ultimately your mind robbed my mother of the most meaningful years of her mature life and made much of my father's retirement years very difficult. We have watched my mother decline gradually over the years in their Miami home and have watched my father's valiant struggle to provide his beloved wife of fifteyeight years with as pleasant and confortable a life as was possible.
Yesterday my sister Consuelo informed me, as she sat next to my father in his home in Florida that my mother probably had no more than 74 hours of life left and that I should make preparations to travel from Pittsburgh to Miami on Tuesday afternoon as soon as I am done voting. With this knowledge I prepare for this evening's ceremony. I feel like I actually lost my mother almost ten years ago when she first lost the ability to recognize us and then when she lost the ability to talk and to take care of herself. But this news now makes the reality of her loss that much more palpable. At least we could still embrace mami, even though she could no longer embrace us back and she stared at the cieling with expressionless eyes. But now we will no longer be able to do that. We pray to the Great Spirit Yaya Guaturey to illuminate the path for this gentle woman's spirit as she begins her final journey. I don't know how long this last phase is going to last but I know that the ancestors will be there to welcome her to their bossom when she finally makes the transition.
To my mother and to all of the spirits of the sacred ancestors I say Taino Ti!
Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague