This was published in the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville October 2015 newsletter, and adapted for publication on Nature’s Path, the CUUPS Patheos blog.
October 31st, which most of you know as Halloween, is also known as Samhain. In the Wheel of the Year, it is the Wiccan New Year, the time when the Blessed Lady mourns for her dead Lord at the same time she prepares for the rebirth of his incarnation on the Winter Solstice. This juxtaposition of grief and hope is, to me, one of the most poignant fundamentals of the human condition.
Once upon a time I had some toxic, manipulative people in my life — people who tried to take away my exuberance. My ability to find joy in little things, or efforts to follow my bliss, were either repeatedly mocked or deliberately silenced. And I let it happen, until a few years ago when I simply could not take it anymore.
I have spent a lot of time since then trying to figure out exactly how I broke free. I had a support system in place, yes, but it had also been there before I escaped that awful situation. Over the years I’ve come to the understanding that it was the memory of my grandfather, Dada, that gave me the strength to persevere and make a new life for myself.
He was not broken by his months of torture as a POW in Korea. He loved his wife, and understood that even a storybook romance requires effort to maintain. His sense of honour and commitment were so profound that he was selected for service to the President of the United States as a pilot for Marine One. I know all of these things are true, and yet the things about him that have survived the years most clearly for me are his smile, as broad as the horizon, and his laughter, which came freely and loudly and proudly.
I believe it was this memory of his presence, and knowing his story through others, that saved my life all those years ago. If finding joy and laughter in as much of the world as possible was good enough for this man, who had every right to be angry and hard… then surely it is good enough for me as well.
This Samhain, as the veil between the world gets thin, like the Blessed Lady I, too, find myself at the juxtaposition of grief and joy. I cry that Prudence and Percival will never know his laughter, that he and Josh’s dad will never discuss the beauty of God manifest in nature. I wish he could have seen me realize my call to ministry. But I am also overwhelmed with joy at my life — that I refused to settle for anything less than the standards he set in love and life, and that I will no longer wear the masks others try to set upon me. I remember the dead by making them part of me, and using their wisdom to help me follow a path of living justice — not just for others, but for myself as well.