As I write this, Autumn is in the air. The leaves are beginning to change color. Just like Persephone, the plants are dying or beginning their return to the underworld. I have spent the last two weeks caring for my grandmother, whom it seemed was making her own way to the other world. Today is her 94th birthday, she has surprised all of us, by deciding to live! While, she still has much healing in her future, to me she is a symbol of strength and determination. She also has re-enforced my belief that there is a reason for our healing crises. I really could not find a reason for her suffering. However, it was clear to me today. When my grandfather died in January, my grandmother didn’t think there was any reason for her to live anymore. No matter how many times we told her she was important to us, she never truly believed it. Now, so many people have filled her with love and prayer. Today was, I believe, the first time ever, she has really sat on her well-deserved throne as matriarch of the family. I can see in her face that she is reveling in the love and attention and finally understands that she is important.
While I was not happy with the timing of her sickness, I appreciate the timing of her recovery. It seems rather appropriate to me, since we are approaching the end of October. For many cultures, the end of October/beginning of November is a time to honor our ancestors. In Mexico the festival is known as “El Dia de los Muertos”, the Catholic Church calls it “All Souls Day”, in Sweden it is known as “Alla Helgons Day”, and many countries celebrate “Halloween”.
Most of us are most familiar with Halloween. However, what seems like a mainstream money making holiday is actually based on a Gaelic sacred holiday to honor the ancestors and celebrate the new year called Samhain (pronounced SAH-win). They believed (as do many Pagans today) that at this time of year, the veil between this world and the next is thin, which allowed the ancestors to come back and help or guide us or if they have not been respected, to haunt us. People would set out turnips or beets with lights in them to guide the ancestors to their home, hence, today’s jack-o-lantern. People would also give offerings of food to the ancestors, which has been replaced by trick or treating.
I have always felt that our culture disregards our elderly and ancestors. I use this time of year to honor my ancestors through my favorite medium, food. Generally, I eat and give offerings of their favorite foods. I also have an offering plate for all of my ancestors and the ancestors of this land. Up until this year, I mostly focused on my great-aunt Emma by eating a milky-way and my great-grandfather (“Great-Pa”) by eating or trying to eat a grapefruit (that is another story about the power of grief). This year, of course, I will be adding my grandfather and brother. As I see this as not only a time to honor them but also as part of my grieving process, I am sure that I will have a more elaborate celebration.