I was told at some point by somebody that the first of the Days of the Dead, All Saints Day, is focused primarily on memorials of loved ones who lived with us, became adults, and maybe even are our ancestors.

An unidentified woman sits by the decorated tomb of a relative in San Antonio Aguascalientes, Guatemala. (AP/Moises Castillo)

The second day, All Souls Day, shifts the focus to the babies, the children, the innocent spirits we lost too soon. I cannot imagine any grief greater than losing one’s child, and I thank God every day that’s one terrible sorrow I have so far been spared.

Unfortunately, as I write this all too many parents and grandparents–in Kansas City, and everywhere else–are grieving just such losses. Wherever there is strife, poverty, illness, famine or terror, the children suffer the most. The world is full of evils, and it has been a bad year for far too many children.

For me, that category of “innocent spirits” also must include beloved pets and other animals: pure spirits who have enriched life on earth, and who are gone all too quickly. I do not see this attitude as a belittlement of lost children, simply an acknowledgement that profound losses may come from many different quarters. For most of the people in my life, their companion animals are cherished family members, and I cannot see that as anything but appropriate.

Oh, and–don’t try to convince me that animals don’t have souls. I have no patience with such claptrap, no matter how many famous persons or theological authorities you care to quote. If they said that, they’re flat wrong, and probably never paid proper heed to the animals in their lives, or they would know better. Even the Bible agrees with me (if there are no animals in Heaven, how can Jesus come from there on a white horse in Revelation? I rest my case).

My hope is that today’s post will encourage anyone who reads it to live more mindfully with those they love–be they humans, or some other species. Cherish the time you have with them, no matter who they are. And be sure they know how you feel!

Blessings to you.

IMAGES: Many thanks, once again, to NBC Latino’s 2012 feature on the Days of the Dead, for the beautiful photo from Guatemala. I also want to thank Judy Jacintho’s “Quotes” Pinterest board for the image and quote about spending time with loved ones, and The Better Future’s website for the quote about grief.