It’s that time of year, when the veil between the worlds of the dead and the living gets thin and we can commune with our loved ones who have passed. So says the traditions of pagans’ Samain and the Mexicans’ La Dia de Los Muertos. It’s no wonder many Americans have embraced or appropriated these traditions for themselves, since we have none.
How un-American death is! Surely President Trump thinks he will live forever, reigning supreme on earth and in heaven (probably hell, too). But thank god death happens. It is the natural order of things. Things rise, then they fade away, it is this way with everything. Nothing lasts forever. This is the one thing we can count on (plus taxes): the forward movement of things that eventually come to a resting place. If it weren’t so, we would be miserable, for we wouldn’t value anything if we knew it would never leave us. We would feel trapped inside a snow-globe, unchanging, stuck in time.
I remember the Balinese culture, which I visited on my honeymoon, believed the dead were among the living at all times. This was why so many rituals of offering took place five or six times a day and was accepted as normal, no physical proof necessary. If you didn’t “feed” your dead, you might encounter great resentment by them, and you didn’t want to deal with that. This resulted in a tight-knit society that’s hard for Americans to imagine. We are extremely individualistic, whereas the Balinese have each other at all times, their people a whole entity where loneliness can’t exist. We, on the other hand, are often lonely.
This Sunday we’ll explore loving our dead as a sacrament that wards off that existential isolation. This is no passive love. It calls for ritual and action and embodiment. We may fear it may open up cans of worms, emotions we’d rather keep buried. But when we do it with intention, with a spirit of welcome and thanksgiving, after the tears have dried we feel cleansed. Brave. Most of all, we feel connected to something greater than our tiny selves, in communion with the universal human heart, that – lucky for us – still beats.
See you Sunday!