The Feast of All Souls

About 16 years ago, a dear friend killed himself. He was young, and somehow, he lost sight of hope. I don't know if he woke up one morning, and it was gone, I don't know if it slowly etched away, I don't know.

I didn't, in fact, know that he had lost hope, I didn't know he was in a dark and horrible place. I, like so many, wish that I had known. That in that terrible place, I could have held his shoulders and his hands. And promised that I would have stayed with him. Found him help. Believed in a brighter tomorrow.

And his life ended one day after school, and suddenly we were all left with more questions than answers, and sorrow, and this was the first time that such sorrow and tragedy had entered our lives. We were just 15.

And I struggled. You will tell me that I was indeed fortunate that death did not cast it's pall over my life until the age of 15, and I will agree. But I will maintain, now and then, that it does not matter at all when that pall touches your life, only that it does, and there is a terrible change before and after.

Some months ago, Tash had a beautiful post about shadow children. And I started reading, thinking that I understood exactly what she was writing about. I didn't. And that's ok.

But when someone refers to shadow children, I shall always think of my experiences after Doug died.

For years, I would think that I saw him. While my brain knew that he was gone, and was past where I could communicate with him, past where I could touch him, be with him, I would think that I saw him. Something in the slope of shoulders, the way someone flipped their hair off their face, a particular laugh, echo's in the appearances of hands.

And I would know, at least in some sense, that time or lighting or distance or fatigue were playing games with my mind. But, another part of my brain, wanted to see what I was seeing. It became a fight in my mind.

4 years after Doug's death, in the year of a friend's death, death on a sunny October day - a death that was a senseless as it was stupefying, a new set of clergy came to my church.

And for the first time, they celebrated the Feast of All Souls.

The Feast of All Souls is simply this - a reminder, that there are those here on earth, and there are the faithful departed. There are Christ's sheep on earth, and the lambs of the flock that we ask Him to recognize as His, and they are in heaven. And that heaven is merely a breath away for all of us. And when you think about it, it seems a strange thing. A feast is a celebration, and we are celebrating the dearly departed.

And in that year, with this feast, I could begin to make some sense of death. I could begin to bound and describe death. The sting was a bit removed. Not the pain of grief and loss, but the senselessness of it. I will never say that Doug or Matt died for any good reason. I will never say there is a point to their death, a point to any death. I will say that I was finally able to put death in some sort of perspective, incorporate it into a larger narrative. Death was no longer an end, but perhaps merely a stop. Death became a form of birth, a way of transfiguration. An entry into the communion souls, more powerful and enduring than the exit from this world.

I think of All Souls more deeply, some years. In some years, it passes without a thought. In this year I shall remember my son, who is within the communion of saints. And this knowledge will not take away any of the pain. It will not make me miss him any less, it will not make my heart rest any easier, as I question why he had to die at all.

I will say this, if he had to be anywhere, the Communion of Saints is where I would most like him to be. Amidst friends and family, amidst those who have made me laugh, and cry while on earth. Amidst those who have taught me some of life's most profound lessons. And if I cannot be my son's teacher, I should like them to be. Amidst those who have known me deeply, amidst solid and pure love. There is, if not meaning, then solace in this.

MOST merciful Father, who hast been pleased to take unto thyself our brethren departed: Grant to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, that having served thee faithfully in this world, we may, with all faithful Christian souls, be joined hereafter to the company of thy blessed Saints in glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
In that place where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.
Wishing you were here.