Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quotation of the Week: All Souls Day

Yesterday was the remembrance of All Souls Day, a day for celebrating the lives of those who have gone on before us. Living only 17 miles north of the border with Mexico, we've become familiar with the Day of the Dead festivities that are common in the Mexican culture. Wikipedia tells us,

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where the day is a bank holiday. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

Day of the Dead "Catrina" dolls
For me, All Souls Day brings to mind the difficult autumn of 1991. I was pregnant with our first child, and both of my grandmothers and my long-time boss were ill. I was often in the loo ridding myself of my breakfast, and seeing so many beloved people around me so ill was extremely difficult. My boss Dennis was in the hospital in October with AIDS. He had first hired me in 1983 at B. Dalton Booksellers, then transferred me to a larger store when he was promoted. Dennis also hired me twice (both before and after graduate school) after he moved on to managing the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Bookstore in downtown San Diego. For more about Dennis, follow this link to an earlier blog post about him: Dennis.

I was too sick to see Dennis in the hospital, but in our last phone conversation, he asked, "Are you barfing, Maynard?" ("Maynard" was our pet name for each other...from the old Malt o' Meal commercials.) He died on October 11. My maternal grandmother died two months to the day later on December 11 which was just about the same time that my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimers.

So when All Saints and All Souls come around each year, I find myself thinking about Dennis and my grandmothers, remembering fun times (like rubberband fights through the bookstore with "Maynard," and watching my maternal grandmother paint; she also taught me to set a table properly). So when I ran across this quotation on Twitter earlier this week, it resonated with me:

"Remembering the dead is choosing their ongoing companionship."
~Henri M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

So I do choose the ongoing companionship of Dennis and my grandmothers, knowing that their loving influence will be with me always. The "great cloud of witnesses" who accompany us on our lifelong journey are made up of these beloved presences who may be beyonf the veil for now but are waiting for us to join them. The veil always seems a little thinner during this Christian triduum of All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day--and the memories of our beloved ones are that much the sweeter.

Wishing you a blessed week,

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