Day of the Dead – Samhain
It is very strange to find that some of my best friends are the same age that my mother was when she died. Not only does it, yet again, remind me just how ridiculously young she was when she died, but also, how we are all ageing.
I remember my Nonna saying how hard it was to lose her friends and at the time I couldn’t imagine it, not really, not viscerally.
This week I spoke to an old friend on the phone and we always end with saying we must see each other soon. We’ve always said this yet it is often 4 or 5 or 6 years between the times when we do see each other. As I put the phone down this time, I realised that had better make sure that soon, is soon, because it feels like in my 50s with friends in their 60s and 70s, we don’t have the luxury of relying on time.
And yet of course I am still raising teenage children who absolutely do not want to spend time with my old friends. Nor do I want them to, because what I want is to sit in coffee shops or to go for long walks with friends to catch up on the years of our lives that have passed between the time when we had all the time in the world.
So, there is a tension.
I see the years passing with my son and know that there are not many before he follows his brother out of the nest into his own life. So, I very much want to spend as much time with my sons as they want to give. Yet my friends and I are ageing and these are the people who have held memories of me I have lost, and I of them, of laughter, of parties, of travel, of deep mourning and gleeful joy, and I want to see them.
My first experience of close death was when I was in my early 20s and a partner died. I sometimes like to think that because of that, death is a familiar friend who sits on my shoulder like a black crow and pecks me when I go off course, tracking to meaningless distraction, keeping me focused on what is real and what matters most.
But when I feel into what death means for me, the loss of an old friend, I want to veer away from the sensation. If I stand still and focus, I notice a tightness in my solar plexus and my stomach at the very thought of old friends not being around. I notice how I want to put it away way in the ‘to be dealt with later’ file. But is there ‘later’?
So, my question to myself it how to work with the tension of wanting to my sons as well as older friends who live further away who also have family, children and work.
Today is Halloween or Samhain, or Dia Del Meurtas, the Day of the Dead where the veil between the two worlds, the spirit and the living, is at its thinnest. In Mexico and in parts of Cambodia, gifts and food are taken to the graves of the dead and picnics are shared with the living, the dead, the old, the young, the ancestral departed.
I wish we did that; just stop for a day to remember that death is part of life and will come to us all soon enough. Also, to remember our ancestors, the people who gave us life.
There is a beauty in the autumn, of emptying and stripping away. The trees become dark and essential as the leaves fall away revealing the black frame of branches. So it seems to me, that as we approach Samhain, it is not such a bad time to spend a moment to consider our ancestors and our own mortality and to let that knowing, shape our living.
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