Posts Tagged ‘Crone’

After the recent posts about Barinthus, a psychopomp, and with the Samhain season upon us, I’ve been thinking of the beloved wise women from my life. I decided to go ahead and share this essay I wrote several years ago about my first Crone. May we all remember the wise ones. 

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She may have been the vision of the hag to some people, with white hair, wrinkles, and calves and ankles overflowing with varicose veins cutting rivers through parchment skin. Brandishing a walker more like a battering ram than a crutch only helped complete the image – though her hearing aide dog added a touch of whimsy to the picture.

However other people saw her, she forever banished my Halloween hag notion of the Crone.

Given the unassuming name of Bernice at birth, my elderly friend took it upon herself to be anything but unassuming (little did I know at the time that her name meant “victory bringer”). Bound by failing legs and eyes, she honed her already sharp mind to remain independent. Our friendship grew out of unlikely soil. As the sister of my then husband’s step-grandmother, she and I were on the side of family gatherings – made more definitive by our interest in minds and hearts rather than sports, movies, church, and redecorating.

TeacupWe spent those family afternoons sitting at the corner of a kitchen table pouring out tea and thoughts on literature, psychology, education, and history.

I learned of life as a woman in the 1930s and 40s, when Bernice was young. How helping her father study to become an electrician led to her being the only woman working in the electrical department of an aircraft plant during World War II. Later earning education degrees, she found herself drawn to troubled students and became one of those to help usher in special education. Facing parents who refused to accept their child as needing a different approach and the normal issues of school districts everywhere, my friend worked to shed light on the needs of others.

A listener as well as a talker, she learned of my struggles with my blue collar roots and trying to find a spiritual home. She listened to the words of poets who wrote water for thirsty souls. And how nature spoke without need for words.

After divorcing her great nephew, our friendship went beyond keeping each other company at family gatherings. Visiting as our schedules allowed, our friendship continued.

Bernice taught me many lessons. That ends are often beginnings. To try to have compassion for others because you might not understand their motives as well as you think. That it’s OK to feel sorry for yourself – but only for a short time. She offered wisdom every time I had the wisdom to seek it.

She was the all-around Crone: unflinching and honest while caring and supportive.

A year or so after my divorce, her health took a turn for the worse. In a matter of weeks, she went from being the vibrant and wise woman I knew to a thin ghost of my friend lying still and unresponsive in a hospital bed.

Hearing of her condition, I knew I had to go to her. Though the chances of having to awkwardly deal with my exhusband’s family were high, I wove my way through the hospital corridors to her room. She was alone, save for a roommate behind a curtain. Having arrived, I realized I didn’t know what to do. With a conscious person, you can offer hope and humor – but what do you offer a woman when you don’t know if she can tell you’re there?

Sighing, I pulled a chair next to the bed and laid my hand over hers. Looking at her wan face, I felt sadness steal over my heart. I closed my eyes and tried to remember all her stories, her vivaciousness, and the lessons she had taught me.

Then it hit me that I was being selfish.

Bernice had lived a full life. The husband she deeply loved awaited her on the other side. Whatever she hadn’t had to time to share with the world in this lifetime, I knew she would share in the next. Who was I to be sad at this step of her journey?

So, I began talking to her – all the normal stuff about my dog and how Berniece would like a book I had just read. Stuffing away my discomfort, I stroked her hand and told her whatever she wanted to do was OK. If she wanted to stay here, she could. If she wanted to go on to meet her Dan, she should go. We in this life would be OK with her memory to hold instead of her hand, and Dan could wait a little while longer too. The choice was hers.

Now teary but smiling, I told her how much I had learned from her and thanked her for sharing her time and patience with me. Quietly, I left.

A day later, my exhusband called to tell me she had passed.

I don’t know what other people told her during their hospital visits: whether to hang on and to fight for this life or to let go and move to her next home. I don’t know if she could hear me. I don’t know if my words would have made a difference.

What I do know is this: my friendship with Bernice taught me the Crone isn’t who I thought she was. It taught me to respect and love the Crone. And that a bit of the Wise Crone is within me, too.


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I still keep Bernice’s memory strong in my mind. Her picture sits on my small altar to the dead all year – and it is moved to the bigger altar that I set up in October. I honor her alongside the other Crone from my life, Miss Sandy.

Most of us have had special wise women help us through tough times or to teach us life lessons. If you’d like to share a note about yours, please feel free to do so.

Bright blessings,



© 2011 PJ Graham

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