I believe in magic. That is, I believe in transformation that transcends human understanding or perception. I believe in the unexplainable—the seen and the felt. I believe our experiences as humans are full of the missed and misunderstood. And I believe that the observance of All Souls Day is crucial.
My family doesn’t observe All Souls Day. We don’t *not* observe it; it’s just everyone’s tired from Halloween, and it’s prime fall craziness, and we don’t slow down to give it much thought. But this is exactly why All Souls Day feels more important than ever. We live in an accelerated society, where despite being made up of humans, we do not move at human speed. We live at a(n) (arguably unsustainable) digital pace. And at such a speed, we miss a lot.
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
—1 Corinthians 13:3-7, The Message
The most fortifying, life-giving, soul-cleansing force we have in the world is love. Paul understood this when he wrote to the church in Corinth. When we love and are loved, we belong, we matter, and we are complete. God loves us like this from the very beginning, even though it’s not always easy to see. And when someone close to us dies, our love for them needs somewhere to go. This, I think, is what leads to grief; feeling overwhelmed by incompleteness.
Pausing to observe All Souls Day, allows us the opportunity to practice grief and re-membering.
Many of us are all too familiar with the storms of grief that blow in unexpectedly. When we take a day to gather together and remember those we’ve loved and lost (or struggled to love and lost), we exercise our grief muscles. Practice helps us recognize the hinting winds and rising waves of grief and find our own personal ways to lean in and weather it. Normalizing our love for others can be celebrated by observing All Souls Day
All Souls Day shows our children we re-member the dead. When we mourn and honor the dead and recognize the pieces of those who came before us, we can start to see that they are part of our own humanness, even now, beyond the grave.
In the Harry Potter series, Harry’s parents die when he is a baby. He’s raised by an aunt and uncle who withhold all knowledge of his mom and dad. But as the series progresses and he meets more witches and wizards who knew his parents, an image of them begins to form. Harry’s understanding grows, painting a picture of two people who loved him dearly, and this knowledge strengthens Harry. Through the sharing of stories, Harry grounds his own identity more deeply in his past. He has his mom’s green eyes, his father’s dark hair and sports acumen (and perhaps also his delight in the mischievous). As Harry matures, he more fully understands his parents’ love for him, and that love extends through Harry to his friends, community, and pursuit of justice.
Similarly, our boys love hearing stories of how their grandparents and great-grandparents’ characteristics are present in their teenage growing selves. They know they’re both named for generous and hard-working family members, and today feels like an opportune time to share stories of those very people.
All Souls Day gives the living another chance.
My mom and I were not super close. We had a good relationship, but our differences maintained a certain space between us. In 2019 she was diagnosed with ALS and I was fortunate to be able to spend some focused time with her over the next two years. We did things we both enjoyed: going for strolls in her fancy wheelchair, watching movies, sharing book recommendations, eating whatever food sounded good with no worries about excess calories.
And then, she died.
As her funeral neared, I’d come up with nothing suitable to share with my dad for his prior review of my eulogy. And then, driving down he highway a day or two before her service, exactly needed to be said about her came to mind. Dots began to connect. Betty was an adventurer and strong and unafraid of standing out. I NEVER saw that side of her in the day-to-day, but in a full-life, forest-for-the-trees view, it became so clear to me. The relationship between the two of us defined her to me. But her relationship with the world was so much greater, and I failed to see that.
Now, on a day like All Souls Day, I can remember someone with so much more love and favor than I harbored when she was alive. My love for her grew after her death, in part, because love transcends death. We aren’t making new memories, but the alchemy of love blows away the chaff of pain or strife. Love remains for harvest along with seeds that take root for the next generation.
There is beauty in magic, comfort in make-believe, and the stories of our loved ones bring their lives and love to life in the imagination of our kiddos of any age. Tell the stories, celebrate the dead, and transform the lives of those around you by sharing love— both yours and the love of others—because that translation of God’s all-knowing, unending love, bringing belonging to life, is our greatest gift.