Surprisingly, many people don't seem to know that the Halloween we associate with kids and candy has serious implications--or even what the word itself means. So much for the loss of Christian tradition.
Today is the eve of All Hallows or All Saints Day, followed by All Souls Day, the Dead of the Dead, not just in Mexico but throughout the orthodox (Catholic) world. If we laugh at skeletons and the scary part of dying on the eve, we honor the dead with prayers on the solemn days that follow. I have always found Nov. 2 especially moving and important, in part because it is ushered in, even here in Florida, with dying leaves, a reminder of life's endless cycle of birth and death.
There is something poetic and reflective in this time of year.
So it was appropriate that I attended a funeral yesterday. The priest read, "Life is not ended but changed." As I looked at the urn containing the ashes of the lively writer known as Edward Hayes, I had to reflect: is death mainly a change, a metamorphosis--or more of a continuation? We carry a bit of eternity with us, the divine presence within us, and when the body is no longer needed, the soul continues in that mysterious realm from which no traveler returns. Perhaps that's what the church's prayer means.
When I came home, I thought about my own funeral, as I often do after attending memorial services, and wrote a draft of a eulogy, added to the file I keep called "Last Things." I want to be sure that whatever clergyman presides at my rites goes beyond the usual comforting words to talk about who I really am and what I did and believed in. I have also outlined the music to be used. It's called leaving nothing to chance.
And like Halloween and the days that follow, doing this isn't at all morbid. I look forward to the great change--and the great love that awaits me.