Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Honor the Recent Dead

All Hallows
Last week, I shared the difference for me between my Ancestral Dead and my Beloved Dead. As we near All Hallows Eve, I want to talk about the Recent Dead, where the emotional waters of grief are shallow and stormy, and easily stirred.
As the earth quiets and stills at this time of year, both we and the animals prepare to spend more time indoors than out. In the solitude we can hear more clearly our own thoughts and emotions. Mine move to the people I have lost in the last turning of the wheel.
The celebrations of Halloween and Samhain are dedicated to the concept of the spirits of the dead walking the land. Millions of minds are directed towards this idea on October 31st, whether in belief or mockery or fun. With such a large pool of energy to connect to, it is a fitting time of year to actively honor their memories.

Death as a Passage
Just as births are a joyous occasion and a rite of passage for both parent and child, death is also a rite of passage for both the deceased and their loved ones. It is meant to be a moment that alters our lives. After death we are forced to make sense of the sudden absence of physical life. We are forced to try to put faith in something fundamentally unknowable.
A fetus spends nine months in its cocoon, forming and birthing itself. As someone who appreciates the balance of the natural world, I believe that our spirits, once released from the larger physical cocoon, spends time to unform from the essence of who we are into… whatever comes next. Whatever you believe that to be. I honor the unknowable journey when I honor their memory.

Let Them Rest
            I do believe that those spirits who recently die are in a state of transformation, even though I don’t know of or into what… it’s where I put my faith. And just as our hearts are in turmoil at their loss, pulling at the strands of life that still might be connected to their spirits would pull at that transformation they are meant to undertake.
            Sometimes the recently dead reach out to us. Sometimes they are not finished. But that should be their instigation, not ours. So do not call the recent dead to work. But honor the love you feel for them. Honor that they were in your lives. Remember them that they will live on.

My Recent Dead
What names sit in your list of recent dead? Who were they to you? What impact did they have on your life? What lessons did they bring that challenged you and helped you grow?
This summer we lost a good man, my uncle, David Ruston Eaton. This loss seemed to bring the mortality of everyone I love into sharper focus. I will also honor the lives of Connie Salisbury, Ralph Hall, Arawn our kitty friend, and my grandmother’s youngest sister, my Aunt Carol Quagliano. I am a better person for having known them, for having been shaped and colored by their deeds, ideals, and service. I see the threads that connect us all more clearly every year.
There are many ways to honor the memory of the recent dead. If they died from illness, you can make a charitable donation in their name or volunteer time at a hospice. If it was a role model of yours, see where you can give back, like maybe working with Habitat for Humanity, or reading stories to children at the library. The one thing death clearly defines is how important it is to be a part of the life around us.
This year, on All Hallow’s Eve, spend a moment and share the name of someone who impacted your life, in whatever way, who passed this last year. Offer a toast to their memory the next time you share a drink. Tell a story of something you learned from them, or share a memory that makes you laugh. Light a candle for each life you’re grieving and be reminded of the light they brought into your journey.

Every life touches another.
Every death vibrates in someone’s breast.
May those we have lost be at peace.
May those who have lost find peace again.

[Revamped from an article originally published October 20, 2010.]

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