Regardless of your faith, beliefs or code of life structure, there is one thing we all have in common. Death- it's the one guarantee in life. This may sound like a dark intro, but society has bred us to associate death and afterlife being a sensitive topic to avoid. Why? Because it reminds us of our loved ones? Because it scares us? Because of the unknown?
While I will NEVER say, write or share anything that contradicts my own lifestyle- I write this article not with the intention to influence or to guide anyone into thinking as I do, but to share my deepest internal dialogue with the public. I'm often asked about my knowledge of ancestral and universal connection and I couldn't think of a more appropriate time to share this auspicious time and its meaning.
I was born Guyanese Hindu- in my own words and after much research, i'd equate it to Ancient Hinduism with a western influence. Guyana was a British colony and for that reason, our mother tongue is English. There are five national races that make up the population of just under 800,000 people. (I shot a movie in NY/Guyana and my film crew was shocked to see the diversity in nationalities, speaking English with a Guyanese accent!)
It was then in 2012 that I got to learn and live the culture first hand, filming in the houses my parents grew up in, acting where my grandmother first started her theatre roots, paving the way for art and entertainment to be prioritized, admired and desired.
In her later years, my hilarious Granny Sue relocated to London, England with my grandfather to live with my aunt. When I was fourteen I decided I wanted to spend a month getting to know them and jet setted off to meet these then strangers who I had only heard of, spoken to on the phone and met when I was younger.
I was instantly in love with them, finally hearing first hand about how my history came to be, my mom's upbringing (as a sassy Guyanese fashionista/socialite), my great grandfather's production company, etc. This was just as I signed with my first agent so to hear that I was on a path paved by my ancestors without being aware of it was a tell tale sign that I was listening to my instinct. In fact, I was slowly realizing that I had more in common with my grandparents than I do with my actual parents.
I spent that summer soaking up every single piece of knowledge I could, asking all things from fashion to finance. My grandmother used to design gorgeous dresses and would always send me her creations from when I was young up until she lost her vision. She would sew the outfits needed for her performances and never failed to ensure that they were regal and stage appropriate. My grandfather was one of Guyana's top accountants and studied at Oxford University for his education. He was a star player on the national cricket team and would travel throughout the world for his matches. They grew up poor, but their innovative minds, undeniable talents and love for each other equaled an unstoppable team that flourished into a successful, stable lifestyle.
While my grandfather played in Europe, he'd bring back the latest fashion trends for my mom and her sister. They were of the first girls to rock pants during a time when dresses and skirts were the only trending option for females in Guyana.
My grandparents are the people I hold highest in my books of "GOALS" and I was absolutely devastated during the time of their passing. I usually pride myself on being emotionally stable to the public, but when my grandmother passed away in 2007 I broke. It was when I first understood what it felt like for someone I love, to die. The last thing she said to me was "I might not be able to do anything for you now, but you'll see what will happen when i'm with God again". That didn't make sense to me at the time, but two months after her funeral, I got my big break, booked Degrassi and my acting career took off. Prior to that- I left everything I had to do and went back to England for weeks until after the funeral and until after my heart was healed enough to remerge into my daily life and society. (I've always been one to handle my emotional side in private and far away in Europe was ideal.)
My grandfather passed away recently in December of 2015. He was going through chemo for stage four cancer and decided he wanted to "go back to his wife because they hadn't had a date in eight years." When I heard that, I didn't fight him to hold on -because that would be selfish- but I wanted to be there with him during the transition. I wanted to see first hand what it was like to go from one dimension to another. I wanted to comfort him during pain, treatments, hospital stays, massage and reiki him whenever he needed (which was all the time because of the pain, but I never minded). I was SO grateful to the Universe for allowing me the time to leave all of my filming/life obligations and be with him in London for the last five weeks of his life. We got to talk about everything from reflection/values/morals/lack of regret/life lessons/ dreams/ EVERYTHING I could pick his brilliant brain about. He is without a doubt the most loving, respectable, honest, hard working man I have EVER met.
Toward his last days he could describe to me what "the other side" looked like in great detail and consistency. It could have been medication and deterioration of the mind, but the peace and happiness it was bringing him was sending him off on a joyful, pleasant tone that he was looking forward to, not fearing. One of the last things he said to me was "Money comes and goes but love will last a lifetime. And I will always love you." We always agreed that him and I were the most connected out of everyone in our family and no one ever denied it. I can't help but to bawl my eyes out writing this, because today beyond all..I really miss them. A lot.
While I was raised in a Hindu household in Ottawa, my parents never forced religion onto us. It wasn't until my later years in my early twenties that I took my own interest in rediscovering my foundation and roots by finding peace, happiness and balance through resorting to "The old ways". By spending so much quality time with my grandfather, he taught me more about religious in the months we had together than I had ever learnt prior. I do believe that timing is everything, I don't think I would have valued the information or prioritized it had I learned it earlier on in my life. My grandfather was a man of his faith, dedicated to God and the Universal laws and made sure to instil his thoughts into me before leaving this planet. "When the student is ready, the teacher will come" always stayed in my mind.
When he left Earth to go head back to the Stars, I remember thinking "That's it? He's just..gone?" I had JUST landed in NYC at the time of his death. He waited for the day I left Europe to go, I knew he didn't want me around for the aftermath. What was most important was our time together leading up to it.
I wasn't present at the time of his funeral and to be honest, I had so much preparation time to say Good Bye that I wasn't in a state of shock nor anger. I was at peace with his choice. (Secretly I was hoping he would go during the time I was there so he'd be out of his misery and so that I could be there for his send off, but he wanted me to say Good Bye while he was alive.)
Having felt the guilt of a fun week in NYC the week of his passing, I prayed every day and night for him and to him as I believe that souls are everlasting energy that reincarnates depending on the karmic balance you leave with after your mission on Earth.
I feel his presence with me and I know my ancestors guide and protect me, whether i've met them or not. They still send their messages of wisdom and knowledge and I meditate to hear them clearly. "You pray to ask questions, you meditate to hear the answers".
I always heard my parents talk about Pitru Paksha each year, but I never understood what it was exactly, or what the ritual was for. Until now. I asked my questions, did my research and performed my rituals to honour my loved ones who walk with me on my life path keeping me safe, grounded, happy, and powerful.
It happens around the same time each year, but for 16 days Hindu's go vegetarian while performing daily rituals and giving donations to honour the souls of our deceased to pay homage for our ancestral lineage and show our gratitude for paving the way for us.
I woke up to a text from my dad saying to put water and "food" (sesame seeds) in a tali (brass spherical water vase used for Religious ceremonies) and offer it over your shoulder facing South. The reasoning behind it is to offer food and water to nourish the souls to our loved ones. I love the idea of my grandparents being an everlasting part of my life even if they're not physically with me. I love that through the universe, i'm given an additional way to say THANK YOU and I LOVE YOU by this sacred ancient ritual.
It is said that for these 16 days, that our ancestors come down to Earth to bless their kin and receive the offerings. Also that when this is performed with a pure heart and with conscious intention that it will be an especially auspicious blessing to those donating their time, energy and love.
Every religion and even within mine, might have a varied way of thinking or acknowledging their ancestors but this is something I wanted to share to highlight the importance of remembering the old. The old ways, the history, lineage, forefathers, and roots that have helped us become the people we are today and who paved the way for the society we live in.
I would LOVE to hear of some perspectives from other religions and cultures as well. Share them via the comment section or through the contact page!
Love to all,