all saints and all souls

I was going to be named Cora Bess, after my two maternal great grandmothers, but at the last minute, my mother changed her mind and named me Lori-Lyn.

I do believe in the vibrational energy of names, and suspect that had I been named Cora Bess, I would be living a slightly different life right now.

My grandfather’s mother Cora died when I was five. I do have memories of meeting her and being in her house.

Me and my great grandmother Cora

Me and my great grandmother Cora

My grandmother’s mother Bessie died when I was four, but I’ve never seen photographic evidence of the two of us together, and my mother can’t remember if we ever met.

My mother had an idea recently, while the sun was shining and the temperatures near perfection, that we, along with my grandmother and great aunt, should visit the graves of our loved ones and take them some fall flowers.

First, we went to my grandfather’s grave. He was buried in his home county, but a few years after his death, when my grandmother moved to Lexington, she and my mom decided to have him moved here.

Now, he’s buried in the cemetery at the country church I grew up in, where my mother is still the organist.

While it does seem pretty odd to me for him to not be in Richmond, with his people, he probably doesn’t mind this spot as it is surrounded by farmland.

We took him a basket of mums with a little plastic apple stuck in them.

My grandmother thought the apple was funny, but I think he might appreciate it.

(If only I’d been thinking, I would have brought little pumpkins for everyone!)

My grandfather Neville and his dog Fluffy

My grandfather Neville and his dog Fluffy

We went on to Richmond and the cemetery there, where most everyone we’re related to is buried.

We weren’t sure where everyone was, and had to wind around looking for names.

“Bessie and June are by an old water pump,” my great aunt said, and sure enough, that’s where we found them.

My great grandparents June and Bessie

My great grandparents June and Bessie

We gave them flowers and I noticed that my great grandmother’s birthday was February 14 and my great grandfather died on February 16.

My birthday is February 15.

“Look,” I said, “I was born right in between her birthdate and his death date.”

I am not a person who believes in coincidence.

“That’s not all,” My mother said. “Cora’s birthday was February 16.”

So, the two women I was supposed to be named for and myself were all born right in a row.

I don’t think I need to tell you how thrilling this knowledge was to me, and still is, how mysterious and important it feels.

We went on to visit Cora and Pap (Edward).

We left them flowers, and also left a flower for Elsie, my grandfather’s beloved sister, who died in her twenties.

Down the hill, we found my great aunt Evelyn, who I called Auntie.

My great aunt Naomi, my grandmother Gladys, my mother Angela, at the grave of my great aunt Evelyn and her husband JC

My great aunt Naomi, my grandmother Gladys, my mother Angela, at the grave of my great aunt Evelyn and her husband JC

Evelyn was kind and beautiful and sort of magical.

I remember spending days at her house when I was out of school, watching The Trouble With Angels and eating and drinking delicious food she brought to me.

This probably only happened once, but I remember it as much larger, much more significant.

We took a special purple jar of flowers to her.

My grandmother Gladys, great aunt Evelyn, and great aunt Naomi

My grandmother Gladys, great aunt Evelyn, and great aunt Naomi

My great aunt Leona, Aunt (we pronounce it Aint in my family) Nenee, is buried in a different cemetery, at a church in Waco.

So we took a drive.

I loved Aunt Nenee, too, and believe it is from her I got my love of Halloween.

She had wonderful Halloween parties I attended with my grandmother. My grandmother made matching costumes for the two of us. I remember those parties as pure joy.

She was also an artist and poet.

My great aunt Leona

My great aunt Leona

On the way home, my grandmother said she wanted a whirly bird, so we stopped at DQ to get her a vanilla cone.

Since her stroke, my grandmother, who is ninety-four, has had problems with her short term memory. Even though she can’t always remember the details of any given moment, she can always remember that when she’s in Richmond, she wants to go to the Dairy Queen.

I don’t think the dead are actually at the cemetery or the columbarium or wherever their bodies have been interred. (Just for the record, neither do I believe they are in a purgatory.) I do think they know, however, when we go to visit them there, and I believe they draw a little closer to us.

Our cemetery day felt like a big family gathering like the ones I attended as a child.

Aunt Naomi and me at Cracker Barrel

Aunt Naomi and me at Cracker Barrel

Sometimes I wonder what my nieces will remember about me when I’m no longer in the physical or, more accurately, how they will remember me.

The imprints we make on one another are not just the things we do and say, but more importantly, how we feel to one another. When I remember people, I remember their energy and quickly the remembering of the energy becomes the energy itself.

My mother, my grandmother, and me talking to a flower a couple of years ago.

My mother, my grandmother, and me talking to a flower a couple of years ago.

I typically don’t respond well to overly sentimental or maudlin social media posts about the love of family, etc. It’s not because I don’t love my family. It’s because I don’t think life is that simple.

Humaness is messy.

And complex.

Love encompasses a whole myriad of things.

While thoughts like never go to bed angry can be comforting, in that they sound like protection, relationships are rarely so cut and dried. Many times people leave their physical bodies with none of their relationships resolved. Sometimes they live in the midst of anger or agony, or because of it. Some things remain unforgiven for a long, long time.

And all of this is okay.

Life is okay.

Love abides

Perhaps I never met my great grandmother Bess, but I know her and she knows me.

Maybe because I was an anxious kid who didn’t say much, my great aunts and uncles didn’t know how much I loved them.

They know now.

The same way I can pray with saints who died decades before I was born and call them in and feel them around me.

The bad news is we don’t always live the way we want to live and death is often painful for those left alive. The good news is, there is no death.

Can’t the teaching of Jesus, truly be distilled to these two things - love on another and there is no death?

The body is temporary.

The soul is eternal.

While I’ve always resisted the idea that Earth is a school, I do believe it’s the hard part.

I do believe that what waits for us when our spirits exit our bodies is the loving white light of God, the angels and archangels, and Mary, the Queen of Angels.

I believe that sometimes people don’t go into the light right away, and sometimes this is because they are afraid of judgement.

Many times people go in joyfully, because they are not afraid.

This is the only way I think faith impacts what happens to us after we die.

In other words, I don’t think what you believe or the religion you practice or don’t practice serves as your ticket to the afterlife.

Your life is your ticket.

You live, you die, and then the white light opens up for you.

I believe God is love and what waits for us when we shed our physical bodies is a love so merciful and boundless, we can not conceive of it.

It is the love that heals all, mends all, restores all.

Day of the Dead Altar, Old Episcopal Burying Ground

Day of the Dead Altar, Old Episcopal Burying Ground

We should be good to one another, not because we’re trying to win a prize, but because we are all here together, all one.

We should love one another because it is love we were built for.

We should love one another because we are love, of love; because we were created together, for one another.

We should try to do what is good for all other humans, for the animals, for the planet, because that is our mission, because that is where true joy is, because that is where God is, not because we fear punishment.

This time of the year, when the veil is so thin and our ancestors hover around us, speaking in dreams, leaving signs on our path, let us take a moment to breathe with them, name them, honor them.

Let us build altars to life and to death, light candles, arrange flowers.

Let us remember who and what we are and to whom we belong.

We are each of us loved wholly and completely by God, no exceptions.

So let us be beacons of light in this world.

Let us love until we break a part and splinter into the cosmos, stars.