Memento Mei

We gather and remember...

NOVEMBER 2ND, 2019 – All Soul’s day

Memento Mei.. Remember Me

In various parts of the world, this time of year is an opportunity to reflect and remember our dead; those who have gone before us. These practices are, for the most part, due to the influence of Catholic traditions. All Saints Day and All Soul’s Day (Nov 1st & 2nd) give the faithful a time to pay respects to all who have contributed to who we are today. (I would point out here that the church’s main focus on All Soul’s Day was to pray for the poor sinners in purgatory, waiting to get into heaven. This is a doctrine I wholeheartedly reject!) The recent decline of religious observance and community expression of spirituality has unfortunately seen us throw the baby out with the bathwater in a way. I generalize of course, but it seems we no longer have a clear backdrop of ritual in which to formally acknowledge our shared experiences or to collectively move forward or through, especially when it comes to grief.

How bizarre and disconnected this is, given that just about anyone you meet in the street, at work, in the cafes and restaurants, and even in your own home, is grappling with and carrying a decent amount of grief over loss in some form or other. For the purposes of this blog, I will restrict my focus to grieving the loss of a loved one, since that what today is all about.

For as long as I can remember, I have been very aware of this time of year. Attendance at church seemed to be required (at least while my mother was around anyway!) as we gathered to honour the Saints who had led the way for the rest of us with their exemplary lives. November 2nd was my father’s birthday, so it was a special day anyway. I like now that I get to remember him every year on this day; that there is a space where ritual can give voice and expression to my gratitude for him, my sadness that I can no longer sit in his company, and to acknowledge the characteristics, mannerisms, and modeling that has imprinted on me and the lives of my wonderful extended family.

Tonight, I will be gathering with some friends in a celebration of this day. We will share photos and stories of our loved ones and of our losses, and share food which calls them to mind. Since it’s his birthday, I thought I’d focus on Dad (otherwise we’d all be drinking coffee, Bill’s favourite food group!). Unless my sisters can offer me any better ideas in the next hour or two, I will, (to my fellow diners chagrin I’m sure) be bringing his famous Tuna and Corn casserole that he would often whip up on a Friday (fish day of course!)

It’s not all doom and gloom though – I think there is enormous benefit to pondering in this space. As we remember them and acknowledge whatever arises, we can also pause and reflect on our own lives and the kind of things we would like to be remembered for. What legacy will I leave to those who love me and will mourn me when I’m gone? Naturally, the biological impact I’ve had on my offspring is undeniable and unavoidable! But I have an opportunity to at least leave this place having made some kind of impact; whether that be a small or large stage setting. I am leaving an imprint anyway, every day of my life, whether it be a positive or negative one; can I be just a little more present to this as I walk through the world, connect with others, and bring lightness and joy and love? It’s a worthy endeavour, and I hope that if and when I have the opportunity to conduct a “life review” on my proverbial death-bed, that I will reach that day with peace and contentment. I will that I “go gentle into that good night”; no rage here. I try to be ready on any day, in case this is the day.

As Benjamin Button would say. “Ya never know what’s comin’ for ya”