Some believe that it is this time of year that the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest. They say it is the season to communicate with our loved ones who have passed. A time when the deceased are able to cross over to help give support and advice. In ancient times, people would light hollowed out turnips to guide the spirits of the dead and leave out offerings of food. Today this is reflected through jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating. All the spooky stuff associated with our modern day Halloween ie. ghosts, goblins, and ghouls, traces back to represent our honored dead. Funny how all that symbolism got lost over the years.
In my attempts to teach my children not to fear the dead and to prevent them buying into the cliche that ‘ghosts are scary’, we started a tradition several years ago to annually visit a cemetery near Halloween. I pack a picnic and we bring bread and flowers as offerings. The kids (and I as well) are fascinated by the tombstones and people’s choice of words used to describe their beloved dead. Tavin said yesterday that he wished the tombstones were inscribed with each person’s story and how they lived and died. They are usually the most intruiged by the children’s graves. Yesterday they questioned why some had the same birth and death date. This led to a conversation about whether it was easier for a parent to lose a child immediately after birth or further down the line. The conclusion was that it hurt all the same.
It is pretty wonderful to see how comfortable the children are at the cemetery. To them, it is a beautiful place that is filled with honor and love. Rumi and Seila pretended they were angels yesterday while they ran hand in hand putting flowers on graves. Tavin laid alone in the grass, reading his book. We picnicked and drank hot cider. I read to them the story of Vasalisa, a Russian fairy tale about a young girl who learns to find her own fire. Then, when we got too cold, we went home.
I can’t say whether it is true or not that it is easier to speak to the dead during the Fall. But I can say that I love the idea of it. In our home we make an altar of photos of loved ones passed (pets included). We offer them a space to visit if they like. And it isn’t scary. Rumi says that she thinks Uncle Jay sits next to her at night. Tavin says he thinks he sees Grey kitty playing outside in the grass. Are they just saying these things to appease me? Maybe, and that’s okay. All that matters to me is that they are consciously learning that death isn’t the end and that there are unseen loving spirits watching over and protecting them. Always.