November 2 should be a great day in the life of the Christians. We are the ones who are supposed to have a positive attitude towards death, that “life has changed, not ended” as the ritual says.
But there are a lot of challenges to this. A growing challenge in our times is that people, both the dying and their families, don’t want a funeral. This can happen for many reasons: economics, psychological (denying our own mortality), and cultural. All Souls day allows us to embrace, not only our dead family and friends, but our limited lifespan, and to recognize that death is not a stranger. It is always present, it is almost an old friend.
If you raised an eyebrow to the idea of death as a friend, it points to another problem. Perhaps starting with Dracula and Frankenstein, there is a huge industry making us afraid of the dead. Horror shows want us to fear ghosts, the walking dead, vampires, mummies, and the rest who wish us ill. This is, for a Christian, so much rubbish, because the dead are our families and friends. I was so glad to see that the movie Coco gave some of the positive cultural aspects of the day, but not surprisingly, left out any reference to God.
So, young or old, we could do ourselves a real favour by trying to deepen our personal Catholic tradition around death. If this has not been part of our prayer, start out easy, by making memory in our prayers and in our conversations of those who have died, and by remembering the saints as our friends. Then, perhaps a year from now, you will be willing to make a visit to your deceased loved ones, or if you are far from home like me, visit a local cemetery to pray for those who rest there in addition to your own beloved dead.
However we choose to commemorate this day, we need to work to have a good balance in our lives – both life and death have been given to us, we need to embrace both.