This post on Patheos about remembering the dead has inspired me to stop and take a look at a subject I often don’t ponder: death.
Every living thing dies, eventually. Many stories have been written about people who magically cheat death (note my Highlander reference in the title), but in reality we all die. Most people don’t like to think about this, of course, so I find it helpful that death gets recognized by a holiday season. With all the seasonal changes that accompany Autumn, it’s no wonder that now is the time of year when people chose to honor death and the dead. I didn’t grow up observing Halloween. Most Christian fundamentalists I know consider Halloween to be the Devil’s holiday. I heard countless sermons and explanations of why it was a Pagan holiday and therefore evil and scary. After spending a lot time researching Paganism, I came to realize that Halloween (or Samhein) was viewed as a time to remember the dead, particularly dead loved ones who have gone on before us. I think this concept is absolutely beautiful. My Grandma Alice, who died when I was five years old, has been on my mind during the last year. I hardly got to know her, but the memories I do have of her are beautiful. I know she was a wonderful person full of love and kindness. During my pregnancy I felt like she was somehow watching over me, like a guardian angel. With Halloween coming up, my thoughts have turned to her again. I want to remember her, to honor her memory and keep it alive.
I think it’s important to remember the dead, as well as to take the time to face death and even celebrate it. The more familiar you are with something the less scary it becomes – I imagine this applies to death. Why not embrace the season of dying, Autumn, by observing a holiday like Halloween? Our lives mirror the seasons, after all: we spend much time celebrating Spring, with it’s birthing of new life; we glorify Summer, with it’s power and growth; but then when we get to Fall, when life begins to slow and fade away, we shrink back; the cold death of Winter is feared all the more. Halloween celebrates that transition from life to death, the change from light to darkness – it promotes a healthier approach to life. Skeletons, gravestones, and even the grim reaper are all reminders of death that can be viewed positively during Halloween. I’m not a fan of overly grim and scary decorations, or of doing things with the intent of getting myself scared silly… but I see the merit in facing one’s fears playfully.
Anyway. If I get a chance I want to post poems and whatnot that speak of death. I have found several already, I just keep getting derailed from posting them (might be the 7 week old and the almost-4 year old who distract me).