Monday, November 3, 2008

All Saints, All Souls, and Forgetting the Dead

Michigan author, poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch writes in the New York Times about the ongoing American project to forget death.

He writes: "The dead get buried but we seldom see a grave. Or they are burned, but few folks ever see the fire. Photographs of coffins returned from wars are forbidden, and news coverage of soldiers’ burials is discouraged. Where sex was once private and funerals were public, now sex is everywhere and the dead go to their graves often as not without witness or ritual."

But the feast we just celebrated, which stretches from All Hallows' Eve (Halloween), through All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2), provides a tonic to this cultural amnesia.

"All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are time set aside to broker peace between the living and the dead. Whether you are pagan or religious, Celt or Christian, New Age believer or doubter-at-large, these are the days when you traditionally acknowledge that the gone are not forgotten."

The entire essay is well worth a read. Lynch himself is well worth getting to know better, in print -- and in person, here at All Saints on Wednesday, March 4, when he opens our Lenten educational program on the Spirituality and Practicality of Death.

+ Kit

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