Resources for Recovering Resilience: Hallowe’en – Blessing the Lives of the Departed

Tonight is Hallowe’en – All Hallows Eve, the night before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day in the European Christian calendar. And Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – in the Mexican/Aztec calendar. Traditionally a time when people mourn the death/celebrate the life of loved ones and face the reality of their own mortality. Besides what can be tremendous fun for American children and creatives to go trick-or-treating, a time to reflect, mourn, and rejoice.

I will be gathering with friends this evening to share contemplative moments of joy and/or sorrow as we share recollections of friends and family no longer walking this earth. As resources if you wish to share a conversation with others about the opening of the heart as we take time to be with life and death, I offer three poems below. May they guide and inspire.

Not the loss alone,
But what comes after.
If it ended completely
At loss, the rest
Wouldn’t matter.

But you go on.
And the world also.

And words, words
In a poem or song:
Aren’t they a stream
On which your feelings float?

Aren’t they also
The banks of that stream
And you yourself the flowing?

-Gregory Orr
(Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved)

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.
The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.
We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.
Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

-John O’Donohue
On the death of the Beloved

I bequeath myself to the dirt
To grow from the grass I love…

If you want me again
Look for me under your boot soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fiber your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
– Walt Whitman
(excerpt, Song of Myself)