Elder Blessing in the Family
by Terry Jones
When my oldest son reached the age of 18 years, I felt a need to release him. I had been aware only at an intellectual level that I would need to let him go someday. It felt like he was ready not so much to be an adult but rather to be honored as a boy who was ready to consider adulthood. My wife and I planned a ceremony that would bless our son and show our respect for his individuality.
On the day of his “blessing ceremony”, we gathered in our home with all our children. We played music we thought conveyed the feeling of honor and love. My wife and I wore clothes that my son would consider unique and special for his day. Each of the six of us, in turn, told our eldest son and brother what we appreciated about him, his uniqueness and his beauty. Each of us closed our brief remarks with a spontaneous hug.
As the oldest member of our nuclear family, I acted as the family’s representative and presented my son with a gift that symbolized his maturity and the family’s confidence that he was becoming a man. His name is Caleb but he had created a fantasy name for himself, Draxx. Caleb is an avid reader of myth and loves J.R.R. Tolkein. Our gift to him was a full size sword of the kind warriors in Tolkein’s stories might carry. We had the name, Draxx, engraved on the blade. Caleb breathlessly took the sword from my hands and held it like it was a delicate piece of art. He was speechless but we all knew we had hit pay dirt with that sword.
With each of our five children, my wife and I have been drawn to ceremonially let each child go and to encourage his or her adulthood with a ceremony like Caleb’s. Our children have selected my wife and I as elders of their family–their nuclear family. They have also embraced other special, trustworthy adults in our extended family as elders. The blessing ceremony was an endorsement, an affirmation of each child that a trusted elder is capable of offering. As my children grow they have found other older people they trust. They have initiated these people into the role of elder by giving them their trust.
The one being blessed is honored and is believed to have moved from one spiritual realm to another one. They grow. They are initiated. The blessing is usually offered in sacred space–holy ground created when people are seen and heard, recognized, admired and affirmed by another. For us, the right space was our home. My wife and I believe that if a person being blessed is ready emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually, the affirmation can change a person’s life forever.
My father gave me a shotgun when I turned 13. He occasionally had taken me pheasant, duck and pigeon hunting. Giving me the gun was his best try at saying to me, “You are becoming a man”. The act of presenting me with the shotgun had the potential of blessing. He didn’t initiate me into knowing about the danger of holding a loaded gun or honor my fear of the gun but, nevertheless, it was a “laying on of hands”. He might better have taken me aside, listened to my questions and made of the moment a more memorable experience. Men have yearned for fathers who could take us by the arm and lead us into the world of other men.
The community’s endorsement came from other male hunters who showed me deference because I carried a gun. Sacred space was created, however, by my father’s focus on me, by his show of love for me with the gift and the offering to me of the affirmation. My father attempted to bless me by trusting me with the responsibility of owning a shotgun. The gun remains today one of my most treasured possessions even though I never chose to become a hunter as an adult. When my youngest son, Jeremy, reached 21, I presented the shotgun to him. This was one of the finest moments Jeremy and I have ever experienced together.
Today, the focus of my blessing energy is my grandchildren. When my first grandchild was born, my wife and I went to her home, and with her parents’ permission we did three things. First, we spoke to my granddaughter, who was one week old, about our appreciation for her existence in our life. I affirmed in front of my son and daughter-in-law my vision of the baby’s future using words like healthy, successful and happy. Next, I anointed her forehead with a consecrated olive oil a friend had brought to me from Israel. As I touched the baby, I made a verbal commitment to her that I would help her realize her future and her dream. And finally, my wife and I gave her a small cross on a chain that her parents will keep for her to wear when she is old enough.
I believe that the elders in a family carry a special energy. It has something to do with being close to the end of life and returning to the place from which we came when we were born. If we take responsibility for this energy it can be a healing force for love.
– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.