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‘Tis the Season to Remember Our Dead

making sense of life & death Oct 12, 2018

It was the blue-black hour, twilight, on a Saturday evening at the end of October. My husband, 10 year-old daughter, and I were attending an All Souls event at our local cemetery. We stood in the shadows on the periphery of the infant memorial shrine in and around a majestic ornamental plum tree at the cemetery. Flickering candlelight danced off the backs of the people in front of us.

There were elders, teenagers, couples and little kids. A woman about my age, silent tears running down her face, placed a memorial candle inside one of the many wee cradles swaying from branches. A little boy, red toque askew and brown curls tumbling out, was lifted up high to hang the long loop of rough yarn attached to a craft paper gift card with a handwritten message. Tentatively at first, and then with more ease, we made our way closer to the big tree to read messages, watch the empty cradles rock and remember the babies, brother Cian and sister Lilja, who never breathed outside my womb.  

The threads of our losses are woven into a larger human tapestry.

Across the ages and in present day, many cultures and religions around the world take time at the end of October and early November to honour their dead. Events like the All Souls programming at our local municipally-owned-and-operated cemetery, create an opportunity for us to pause, remember, and feel connected to something outside of ourselves and our intimate circle. After spending time at the infant memorial shrine, I sensed that the threads of my losses were woven into a larger human tapestry.  

I remember the dead in my life in different ways. There’s the beginnings of an ancestor photo gallery on a wall in our bedroom. We planned our summer vacation this year around a visit to the Icelandic settlement community and its wee cemetery where my husband’s “people” are buried. And just recently, on the birthday of one of my dearest friends who died over a dozen years ago, I reached out to her daughter on Facebook as an act of remembrance.

Yearning for more remembering

Despite these acts of remembering, I yearn for more remembering and honouring the dead in my life. I feel enlivened and inspired when I reflect on the relationship, lineage and opportunity I’ve been gifted by those who came and died before me.

If you’re moved to remember in community, use these keywords to search for seasonal events near you: All Souls Day, Night for All Souls, All Saints Day, Day of the Dead, and An Samhain (which evolved into Halloween).

What about you?

What’s your experience with remembering your dead?

How does remembering your ancestors impact your life today?