The time between Halloween and November 2 in Celtic and Gaelic pagan traditions and in some Christian traditions and in Mexican culture is a time to honor the beloved dead.
Today is Samhain.
Tomorrow is All Soul’s Day.
The celebration of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is October 31-November 2.
So while I am not exactly pagan or a devout Christian, and I’m certainly not going to appropriate Mexican culture as a white American (that’s why there is no picture of sugar skulls in this post…I don’t know which pictures I can find on the public domain internet are honoring Mexican culture properly and which ones were put up by uninformed white people because they think they look cool), I am going to use today to remember five special souls in my life who I consider beloved dead, in different ways. Because this is a concept that crosses faiths and cultures and traditions.
I’ve written about four of them here before.
Our dog. I wrote three posts about our dog when we had to euthanize her this April. They are called Saying Goodbye To My Best Girl, Realness, and I Want To Believe She Was Ready. I won’t link them all here, but they’ll show up in my ‘grief’ tag. Yesterday was the first Halloween in 14 years we spent without our dog. And it was harder for both J and me than we expected. We have fairly difficult to navigate stairs up to our front porch, so we hand out candy from our open garage each year. But we always left our front door open for our girl to watch the trick-or-treaters. She liked that. This year the front door stayed closed and locked. And it was strange and sad. I have photos of her up all over our house every day. And we tell stories about her now without crying…sometimes we laugh even though we miss her. I hope she knows we still love her and that she feels welcome to come back home whenever the veil between worlds is thin, if any of that has realness to it.
Just read that piece, and you’ll (hopefully) understand that while I’m obviously not carrying a torch for a kid I went to middle school with 16 years into happy commitment with J, Robby taught me a lesson about love and human relations and integrity that I can’t forget and I’ll remember him for as long as I have a memory. I do have a photograph of him that’s not ‘up’ in my home, but it is in a safe place of honor. I know he has other, better places to go if his spirit visits anyone around this time of year, but I hope he knows I think about him and that he still matters to me. That’s still ‘beloved.’ Just not in a conventional way, I guess.
And my Gramma. This is my dad’s mom. She and my Grampa practically raised me until I was 11 and my Gramma passed away. I wrote a post about my Grampa too. And I wrote this one about both of them together. And I wrote a post about their marriage and how it influenced my view about what love could be when I was younger (Duration =/= Greatness), but I won’t link that one. This is already a whole lot to read. My grandparents really shaped a lot of my life and who I am as a person. They are definitely my most beloved dead. And I hope if any of these pagan or other cultural traditions have some truth to them, that they come and hang out at my house sometimes. Whenever they can or want to, not just on Samhain or All Soul’s Day or Grandparents’ Day or whenever. I put up their photographs year round. I’ve even posted photographs of them HERE. And I tell stories about them a lot. And I use the lessons they taught me about being a good person and the practicalities of life every day to hopefully make a home that’s welcoming to their spirits (if there is truth in these cultural traditions) and to live a life that makes them proud of me as their descendant.
But today’s piece is really about beloved dead that I haven’t really written about in depth here (though I have mentioned her a few times), because I don’t really know her. I never got to know her. I do have her photograph up in our home year round. And occasionally…in a few treasured moments, when it’s not too painful for him…J will tell stories about her.
She’s my mother-in-law.
There’s this odd cultural running gag about how people (men and women…but I think particularly women) are supposed to resent and maybe fear or just generally dislike their mother-in-law. I’ve actually had insensitive people joke to me in the past that I was ‘lucky’ that I didn’t have to ‘deal with’ a mother-in-law, because J’s mom had passed away two years before we met. But I honestly feel robbed of knowing who I am certain was a wonderful person. I do know my father-in-law. He’s not a very kind, caring man. He’s not friendly. He doesn’t particularly like me (but I try not to take it personally, because…well…he doesn’t really like anybody…sometimes not even his own children…J and J’s sister). So I know that J’s personality and moral code and sense of caring responsibility came from somewhere else. And I have to assume that’s my mother-in-law. I didn’t know her, but I still miss her terribly. I’d love to ask her questions, like what J was like as a boy. Was he like I imagine? How accurate am I? Is The Boy like him? I think he is, but I’d love to hear my mother-in-law’s input about that. I’d like to ask her to pass down recipes to me of J’s favorite things to eat when he was a boy and a young man, so I could learn to make them the same way and maybe pass that on to The Boy too. I imagine her being enamored and proud of our son. I feel shorted out of someone else who can see and hear and touch our son who I know would love him as completely as J and I do.
I can’t ‘remember’ my mother-in-law because I never got to know her, but I can still honor her. I honor her today (and every day really) for giving me the love of my life and shaping him into the amazing man he is today. I hope she feels welcomed when she stops by in this time when the lines are fuzzy between what’s here and whatever’s beyond here, even though we don’t ‘know’ each other. I hope she’s happy with the choices J made and the life he has with me.
For whatever traditions you are upholding today/this weekend, I hope they are meaningful to you.
And if you’re not celebrating or remembering anything in particular, I just hope you have a nice weekend. 🙂