All Souls Day, because remembering matters
Yesterday’s post questioned who “the saints” in All Saints Day are. And we found the answer varies. Today, however, the festival is “for the rest of us.” This is because, no matter who we are or who we love, remembering matters.
Some traditions roll All Souls up with All Saints. Some particularly focus on the “innocent souls” of deceased babies or (a more recent take, which informed my choice of a background design for the header) animals.
Many Christian traditions see All Souls as the day to commemorate the “Faithful Departed.” In other practices, and in non-Christian traditions, we generally commemorate ancestors, departed friends and honored family members whom we personally remember during this season. In other words, All Souls is for “the rest of us.“
How do we commemorate a deceased person?
One way is with an album or display of photos or videos, or small items the person used or liked. I’ve seen many commemorative albums or slideshows at funerals or memorial services that would be equally appropriate for today
One of my most enduringly popular blog posts described the idea of creating a virtual ofrenda, patterned on the memorial displays set up for the Day(s) of the Dead ceremonies.
Some families create a memorial wall inside their home, where photos of deceased relatives or friends are displayed. There’s also a brisk trade done in memorial items, such as statues, candles, jewelry, Christmas tree ornaments, or other items.
Some people create memorial T-shirts, especially the families of those who have died by violence. I’ve seen memorial statements placed on cars, too. Another way is to create a landmark. You could plant a tree or donate a memorial bench or other feature to a public area. Many create memorial websites.
Why create a memorial?
The need to create memorials for deceased family or group members is one of the oldest human impulses we know about. And that’s precisely because archaeological excavations of ancient graves imply so many memorial practices. The contents of ceremonial burials, have yielded many clues about early cultures.
Throughout time, humans have had to grapple with the reality of death, since eventually it comes to us all. We deal with grief and loss in part by creating memorials. The creative and restorative process of a healthy grieving cycle is a painful, essential reality of our existence.
The memorials may be different. The lengths and intensities of grief may vary. But the basic human need remains the same. It is embedded in the idea that to be forgotten is to truly be annihilated.
Whether it be collective memory or individual memory, remembering matters. This is why we have funerals, create grave markers, hold vigils, and create public spaces such as the Holocaust Museum or The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
No matter how we remember, and no matter who . . . very simply, remembering matters.
IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Fabric.com’s “Timeless Treasures Day of the Dead” fabric design collection, which I used for the background of my header image for today. This one is called “Pups Black.” Many thanks to PressFrom and Maria Alejandra Cardona for the photo of Rontisha Brown memorializing her murdered brother Rahkeem Brown. The image of the ancient burial is courtesy of Red Ice. The Audra Melton photo from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is from The New Yorker. I deeply appreciate you all!