Today, November 2nd, is All Soul's Day on the Christian calendar. Our neighbors in Central and South America take it very seriously. They spend time with those they love but see no more on this day. We should take it more seriously than we do.
November 1st is the day Christians celebrate All Saints--those exemplary figures in the journey to the Lover of Souls who have left an example for us to strive for and reach for and lean into.
All Souls are all the other dead--like you and me--who lived and struggled and had joy and great pain and knew wonder and died unremembered...except by those of us who loved them.
I'd invite you to gather your Dead around you. To invite the memories long forgotten to be fresh and knew. To spend time with those you love but see no more.
I plan to be present to my parents, my wife's parents, a beloved cousin, aunts and uncles, a whole group of friends and mentors (getting larger each year!) and welcome them into my life again, to share a moment, a memory, the love that bound us together.
My mother died when I was quite young--just after my 25th birthday. I remember feeding her one of those little waxed cardboard containers of vanilla ice cream on a small wooden spoon a day or two before her death. She did not know who I was, but she loved vanilla ice cream greatly and it is a great memory for me. One of my aunts, the only aunt or uncle who is still alive, came into the room while I was doing that. "Jimmy," she said, "has anyone wished you happy birthday?" Until she asked I hadn't even remembered it was my natal day.
My father lived to see our children. He called me one night and told me, "you're friends are here and they're taking my stuff." I realized he was seeing things and had his pistol out. I asked to speak to one of my 'friends' and he came back a minute or two later and said he couldn't find them. That was a call at 3 a.m. The next day I flew from Hartford to Charleston and rented a car in the midst of a sudden snow storm. The West Virginia Turnpike was officially closed, but when I told a State Trooper what I was up to, he let me drive it. "Just don't think you'll be helped anytime soon if something happens," he told me.
I got to Princeton and called my Dad from a pay phone--remember those?--and told him to take the bullets out of his gun and lay them on the kitchen table where I could see them. I peered in the window and saw them splayed across the table and went in. I brought him back with me to CT after getting his power of attorney from a local JP (who probably should have been removed from office for believing my Dad was 'of sound mind'!)
He lived with us in New Haven until he started wandering away and had to go to a nursing home. At least I got to spend time with him, in his diminished capacity, that I never got to spend with my mother.
I think I'll invite them over tonight--on this Day of the Dead--to hang out and reminisces about days long ago that we shared.
Just ponder for a while, what you might say to those long dead. Invite them to share a few moments and tell them what you need to tell them. And listen for whatever wisdom might be returned to you.
Does that sound just too weird? This, in the Celtic year, is the "Thin Time"--these last days of October and first days of November--the 'thinnest time', in fact--when the barriers between this life and the next and whatever in in between are dropped and wondrous journeys can be made between the realities. That's why Halloween ('All Hallows Eve') is around this time.
The time is 'thin'. It is the Day of Dead. Ponder that. On All Hallows Eve the saints and souls walk among us, looking for hospitality.
Invite them in to sit a spell, to 'bide for a while. How weird and wondrous it is to sit for a time with those who are dead....
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