This time of year, more than any other, I’m struck by how much distance modern society tries to put between life and death.
Struck by the families who want only “non scary” costumes, or who don’t trick or treat at all. Struck by those who’ve never visited a graveyard. Struck by the deaths in our family, and those in our various circles of friends…and by the number of parents who keep their children from the funerals of those friends and family, for fear of their children’s reactions. Maurice Sendak was big on trying to get across to people that kids had all the same feelings as adults, and that things like scary stories were a good way to practice for the real word. And I think he had it right – kids are people, just like adults, with big feelings and scary experiences, and we need to offer them tools to deal with that.
One thing that’s feeling very important to me this year is the beloved dead. I suspect that’s because of the number of folks in my various circles who have lost a loved one in recent weeks – everything from a baby girl who died on her birthday to young children dying of illness to suicides and car wrecks to the very old. The weight of those deaths weighs heavy this time of year, but for whatever reason, even more so this year.
One of the beauties of the old ways is that death is just a part of life – something that happens on the journey, not an end, but a new beginning. The stories of the seasons draw parallels to our own lives, and those can be told to children easily, because they are familiar with the seasons as a part of their world. But that also makes it easy for us to find comfort in those stories too.
The veil is thin this time of year – this year feels thinner than most. Enjoy!