Allerheiligen & Allerseelen – All Saints and All Souls day

“In honor of the saints – known and unknown.”

Rarely does a person reach his or her 21st birthday without experiencing the death of a (be)loved one. So, we all have common ground there.

How we express our loss is such a private choice. It seems to me, having seen people that did not express their loss and watching that downward spiral, the only important part of “how” is “that we do it.”

There are many solutions in the diverse forms: memorial service, Requiem, Shiva, Día de los Muertos, Janazah prayer, mourning flags, black clothing, white clothing, covered mirrors. Buddhists believe both how deeply and how long we mourn can be based on the “tie with the person.” I love that.

There is a difference between the sister holidays of All Saints and All Souls day. Traditionally, All Saints day was meant to honor those who died and were assured of eternal salvation. All Souls day was meant to honor those who were unbaptized and thus…well…destination unknown. This is the 2-part version of what some celebrate as a 3-day observance called “All Hallowtide.”

Being the devout Catholic I am, I can say clearly: I don’t like it. It’s a very man-made distinction and I don’t like those. I prefer to view things the way I’d hope our ever-loving God would. Do I imagine God making such a distinction?

No.

Allerheiligen is a big deal in Switzerland. Truly. The cemeteries and church are packed. The heads are not all grey, white, bald, or salt/pepper – there are younger people in both spaces. The presence of all ages reinforces what we’ve all learned consciously or subconsciously by age 21…

this life is temporary

 One way I’ve learned to express loss is beautiful. My church in Luzern makes Easter candles. Somewhere along the line, someone told me he burned his Easter candle the week before Allerheiligen and put it on the grave of his mother (it wasn’t L).Easter Candle on Allerheiligen

(This is what I do every year. It is how I have chosen to express loss.)

Candles cover the graves on Allerheiligen. As the sun begins to set, the people put candles on the graves of people they love and remember. I, too, have been honored to decorate the grave of a beloved member of my extended Luzern family (http://wp.me/p2dSt7-hA). I am at her grave often and I notice other people in mourning. I’ve noticed this expression of loss comes without as many tears being dropped on the graves we keep in memorium. Allerheiligen comes without quite as much pain.

It doesn’t always have to be painful, does it? Remember our loved ones can serve to renew the bond we had with them, instead of tearing open healed wounds.

Next year, on the 1st of November, remember your loved ones. If you are not near them, find a simple tree, light a few candles, say prayers/sing a song/read a poem. That’s what All Saints and All Souls day really mean.

We did not forget you, we remember your time here among us, and we honor you.

All Saints day

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