Today, I’m thinking about death. It’s no surprise because it’s October 31, Halloween in the United States. Día de Los Muertos and All Souls' Day loom around the corner, shoutout to my Mexican, Chicano, and catholic gente.
Last year at this time, I was creating an ofrenda for my grandmother, Meme, and my friend Mercy’s father, Jaime. I felt pulled to remember them, as the theme song to Coco encourages. I didn’t want their memory to be lost because if that happened, their spirits would disappear forever and turn to nothingness. The thought of that alone brought me to tears. So, I gathered some of those Dollar Tree chocolate covered cherries for Meme and found a perfectly glazed donut for Jamie, their favorite treats. I scoured Berkeley for marigolds and eventually found someone selling them from a cart outside of campus. I lit a candle and remembered their spirits. I felt peace knowing that their souls wouldn’t disappear to dust.
This year, I’m wondering if that’s even possible...
I believe in past lives and in reincarnation. When someone dies, the only part of them that dies is their identity as we know it. We only get to know a sliver of the people we live alongside. We only know a sliver of ourselves. We’ve lived before incarnating into this lifetime and will continue to live after we die. The next life our soul chooses will be one that continues to expand our soul’s consciousness.
So now when I think about Meme, I know she no longer goes by Meme. She’s finished her time playing the role of a Haitian immigrant matriarch. That aspect of her continues to live on in the decisions she made (which led to my existence) and the lessons she passed on to her loved ones, and in the memories of her living. The lifetime they spent as Meme and Jaime are forever etched into the Past Lives section of their soul’s memory.
Perhaps now she’s the blue bird whose song caught my attention during this morning's mediation. Perhaps Jaime is setting down roots as a tree that will live on for centuries.
Wherever their spirits are now, I believe they are living. I also believe their spirit has moved on from the life we once knew them.
If we’ll let them…
Does calling on the spirit of transitioned loved ones hinder them from moving on in their next life? It would make sense if it did. It must be hard to move forward if an aspect of your soul is stuck returning the calls of a past life.
Death is the ultimate transition, a beautiful milestone in existence. It’s something that all who live will have the honor to experience. Yes, it’s an ending; it’s also a beginning. Death brings in an end so that we may begin again.
I’m reminded of the Coldplay jam, Death and All His Friends. Who are all of death’s friends, anyway? The ones I know are named Beginning, Release, Mourning, Change, Acceptance, and Forgiveness.
So all that to say, I’m celebrating this day a little differently this year, incorporating my most recent musings and ponderings on death. Instead of honoring “the dead,” may their spirits live on, I’ve decided to honor Death. I’ve got an alter decked out in dried marigolds, roses, and pine needs in his honor.
Later, I’ll light a blood red candle for Death and All His Friends, ceremonially releasing all that no longer serves me; all I’d like to lay to rest. What can you lay to rest today?
May this candle burn for us all.