I LOVE Halloween! This time of the year, transitions are all around us…the brisk air, the colorful leaves, the earlier setting of the sun and later rising of it. Most of us are in preparation, buying candy, thinking about our costumes representing our alter-egos, the lives we want to live, or fear to, the parts of us that rarely have a chance to be enjoyed. In many cultures, however, it’s also a time for honoring our ancestors, those beloveds that have made the ultimate transition.
In Mexico, for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, people traditionally parade to the graveyard, picnic in tow, to gather around the graves of their parents and grandparents, eat and drink and celebrate the lives that have contributed to their own. Elsewhere, as in the video clip I’m sharing on FaceBook, the remains of the dead stay in the homes of the living for quite a while, continuing to be a member of the family until, even years later, they are laid to rest with considerable pomp.
How wonderful it is, to celebrate our relationship with those who have died, and to realize that they are still in our lives! So often, we find ourselves fearing death, or mourning the loss of others. Yet to paraphrase Kubler-Ross, in embracing our ultimate mortality, we realize just how alive we still are, now. Or to put it another way, as a client of mine puts it, we’re still “sucking air.” As a therapist, and as one who has said final good-byes to many beloveds, I am always amazed at how death puts our lives into perspective, reaching beyond the petty, mundane concerns that confuse us, and reminding us of what is essential. As de Saint-Exupery says, in The Little Prince, that which is essential is invisible to the eyes, but can only be seen with the heart.
So as you wander the thrift stores looking for your costume, consider also the profound ritual that is Halloween, remember your dead, remember you are alive. And I am so grateful for that.
Next, the rituals of Halloween…