Sunday, November 2, 2008


A day like today, usually finds me in a state of confusion. I have to check several clocks to find the real time - which ones have been moved back that hour, which ones need to be done manually. Far be it for me to be sensible and change them all the night before as is routinely suggested. Apparently my cell phone and computer and VCR are good. The microwave, stove and car are too lazy to do it themselves and need my help. Damn, twice a year I have to relearn how to reconfigure this.

Today is also a day of thinking about the departed. My culture is one that does not celebrate death, or the rituals of death. This is also partly my family custom. We have no grave sites for visiting. The one grandparent who was alive when I was born died when I was 10. My father did not have much to do with his family, my mother's family were all in Scotland and I was a teenager before I ever met any of them. Death was not a part of my family until recently. We have been rather fortunate for that, but also extremely unprepared. I was looking up some references for writing this, specifically an excellent production shown on PBS (POV: a Family Undertaking) about different death customs in various cultures and got sidetracked into reading many articles surrounding rites and rituals and ceremonies and how they have changed over the years and centuries. How much we have distanced ourselves from death and from the dying. In some way I wish we had a Day of the Dead. I wish we had a communal gathering to remember; a communal place to remember.

Today was a service for remembering at the seniors home where my mother moved into 2 years ago. There have been many deaths in that home during this year, including my mother and three of her close friends. A part of me did not want to go. Another part of me was glad to go. Glad to be a part of the service just by being present. Glad that there was a service. Glad that it was a beautiful November day for it. Glad that, when one wished to look away, there were still golden and yellow leaves hanging on some of the trees just beyond the large windows.


  1. My son died 4 years ago. Every day he is on my mind in some way and every night I dream about him. This does not make me sad. I am glad that I can remember him and dream about him in such a positive way. My love for him is unchanged and I will always feel that he is just around the next corner. I don't do anything special to remember him on the day of his death. It would acknowledge too much that he is no longer here, which I don't want to be reminded of. I would rather continue to feel his presence around me every day and feel the love that is constantly there. So, I would rather no have a day of remembrance, because every day is a day of remembering and being present still in a continuous line.

  2. What a beautiful post.

    My story is very similar to yours, Sanna. My mom was an only child, I only met one grandparent. We did not experience death growing up. But then there were four deaths, one a year starting in 1994, including a brother at 47. Death is part of life, and it is good to embrace it in healthy ways.

    And yeah, daylight savings is a little annoying, but I sure like it in the fall. That extra hour feels great.

  3. I have experience death on a personal level and a removed level. Both my grandfathers have died in my life time as has a great aunt. I was sad but they had had good lives and reached good ages. While I wished they could have lived longer I could understand their passing. I have also seen a close friend lose her daughter of 18 mths to menigitis - harrowing, gut wrenchingly distressing.
    I have, unfortunately, been in hospital wards with women who have died. I have died myself and been brought back to life.
    I am not scared of death, but I am angry with it. Angry that it should take people too early. Angry that it doesn't give us warning so we can say the things we need to. Angry for the suffering and destruction it can leave in its wake.
    This is a beautiful post VS and very thought provoking.

  4. Quite by coincidence I returned last Saturday from the local cemetery, given the simple fact that the (often previously) Catholic parts of Europe celebrate All-Saints day on November 1st.

    It's really a solemn, massive commemoration over here in Belgium (and all over Europe) :
    all stores are closed, with people covering the graves of their loved ones with flowers.

    I'm glad I found this post as All Saints days seems to be completely overshadowed by the commercial Tsunami of Halloween.

    Peter in Belgium

  5. This is such a very sweet post. How each of us deals with death and the "rituals" of it, is as different as each one of us is from the other, I think. Being of a certain age, I have experienced many many deaths---Very Close and Not so close.....! And I personally find some of the 'rituals' helpful. That there be some kind of service---whether it be a Funeral, or a Memorial or a "Celebration" of that persons life, is really important to me....There is no "closure"....ever. But somehow if there is some kind of ceremony--whether formal or informal---this is meaningful to me and obviously to many other people too. A way of Honoring the person who has died and a chance for those of us still alive to remember them and laugh and cry and somehow say a 'goodbye' of sorts!

  6. can I be pertinent and ask which culture you belong to? I know you are Canadian. Is there some other reason that you don't have funeral services etc? I am only curious.
    Putting the clocks back has really messed everything up, hasn't it?

  7. Maggie May: I meant that in a general, secular way - we North Americans seem to try our best to disassociate ourselves from death. Generally, the rites and rituals have been abandonned and are handed over to a funeral home to take care of ALL the details. We have either a funeral or memorial service. I was really thinking more of the community gatherings - we don't have All Saint's Day (European)or Day of the Dead (Latin American) where we all gather to honour the memory of our loved ones. We don't have 'days of mourning' as some religious groups have.

    Naomi: Even at this memorial service, it was mostly the other residents who normally attend the church services who were there. From the 16 people who passed away, only the family of 5 were there for the service. Somehow, I found the being with other people who had also lost loved ones to be a bit of a comfort, a remembrance that we are not weeping alone.

  8. Peter: it was reading other blogs from Europe about All Saint's Day that got me thinking more and more about this. I didn't realize it was such a "massive commemoration" (I went to use that phrase and realized it was the one you used too, so it must be apt!) Thank you for commenting.

    And I am sorry that Hallowe'en is overtaking so many other cultural events. I understand England is quite annoyed about it eclipsing Guy Fawkes Day - and rightly so.

  9. MA: Yes, death is cruel for the living. It truly makes us feel helpless and vulnerable.

  10. Irene: I am sorry you had to go through such a loss. I am also ambivalent about what I wrote for the very reasons you outline. I wonder if that is why we chose not to "embrace it" as Ruth says. Then again, would the pain be lessened if we did? For each, it is likely a different personal journey.

  11. I'm sorry about your Mom. We do have a strange relationship with death. I remember how hard I cried when my brother died, and the surreal nature of returning to work as if it had never happened. I kind of wish we still had the custom of wearing mourning clothing to let others know to go easy on us for a while.

  12. CotW: Thank you.
    Yeah, black armband or something. And those official 3 bereavement days off work is really useless. It's after the 3 days that everything starts to s-l-o-w-l-y sink in.

  13. Violesky, I recently lost my Mother and I go to her graveside at least twice a month and mill around, clearing weeds and just to think and mourne. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have a place to go and be alone with my God & my Mom.
    It is so will soon be 6 months and her b-day is coming up.

  14. Glenda: I am sorry for your loss. My mother passed away 6 months ago and I am taken aback at times when I realize it gets harder not easier, with time. My niece is the one in our famly who has found a special place to be alone with each of her grandparents and her thoughts. I pray that you will find some solace as her birthday nears. Thank you for visiting and for your comment.

  15. Violetsky, I'm just getting caught up with posts from other blogs.

    I think many people are afraid of death because we're afraid of expressing our feelings. It's like it's not nice to be grieving, it's something one must do in private. It's taboo. And yet, because we're afraid of it, we find it disturbing.

    Both my parents are still alive although I am not in contact with my father. I am closer to my mother and I know that when she's gone, I'll miss her like crazy. It's a tie you have that gets cut. And I can understand how it can be getting harder instead of easier. I don't think it gets any easier when a person you were close to is gone.

    Sorry, rambling here, what I want to say is that it's nice to have good memories and one should cherish them. Your mom is with you all the time, that will never change. It's her body that isn't.

  16. UA: Yes, we are a very private society. I know I would feel uncomfortable in a culture where people grieve so openly. I had a friend who (along with 2 of her 3sisters) was not close to her mother at all, yet did a traditional body washing (she was Chinese) and found it to be a very healing and calming experience that helped her make peace with her mother. She was very surprised by it. I don't pretend to understand that, but it interests me greatly.


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