Thursday, November 2, 2017

... more subdued celebration of death on All Souls' Day...

Today is All Souls’ Day, a holiday that is celebrated quite differently depending on one’s religious background and upbringing. Some say prayers for all deceased souls and visit loved ones who have passed.

While I’m frequently in the cemetery, I often visit other people’s families. Today I have a long to-do list and an evening class. I need to make appointments, grade papers, and prepare course lectures and activities. But, this is not what I need to do today.

Elementary School- we're in the middle with our brothers on top of the eagle
I want to go see Susan since she has been on my mind lately. She was my self-determined sister. We were childhood best friends forever with necklaces to prove it; then, before our thirtieth birthdays, birthdays that because they were only two weeks apart were celebrated together throughout grade school, she abandoned me to grow old alone. She drowned in a boating accident with her new husband. The captain of the ship lived to tell the tale of how her husband lied to her when she asked if they were going to be okay, and how she sang before hypothermia took over. 

child's grave at Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA
I try to remember such things when I'm walking through any cemetery. These people were loved fiercely by others.  The best inscription that I have ever read in a cemetery was for a little child in Hollywood Cemetery. Like family plots of the time, she is buried in a small cradle grave behind the other family members. With the elaborate fencing and the large grave markers before hers, it took me years to even notice she was there. If you look carefully on the foot-stone below the curled up animal statue you will see the epitaph which reads:

How many hopes lie expired here

Susan's church
Susan and I had had talks about being two old ladies sitting in rocking chairs together discussing life.  We were the first ones of our friends to get married; we were the first of our friends to divorce. We were often grouped together for Girl Scouts, Oratory, and Drama. When my first husband cheated on me right after my employer went bankrupt, she was the first to call me. She made me feel better when her first husband turned out to be a common robber. None of it seems real.

Now, she’s dead buried in a small graveyard at a church where she attended as a child. I would go to that church with her sometimes. I saw her get married there. I watched her funeral, and her father’s funeral there just a few years later. I sat in the very same pew.

6th grade
October was frazzled. It was too busy. I have made promises to myself about not over-committing myself next year. Fall is supposed to be a time of contemplation. Perhaps it was our summer-like temperatures or perhaps it was just all the Halloween activity but I did not think about the season changing. I was not reminded of death or transition. November changes everything.

This week I mourn the end of Hallowmas and I re-mourn my friends who were lost to this world. But, I’m also reflecting on my own soul. What does my spirit need? How should I nurture my spirit? What do I need at this moment? What would bring me peace and joy?

Thomas Moore writes, “Let us imagine care of the soul, then, as an application of poetics to everyday life.” 

How will I be more authentic today? 
How will you?