Samhain was this past Wednesday and it was a lovely evening. We cooked and set aside a plate for our ancestors and we feasted. We drank a little more than we normally do (which isn’t saying a lot, we don’t drink much) and it was a festive mood, even if it was only the two of us. We talked about family who have passed, telling stories and laughing. It was nice. I got to share stories about people my Joshwa never met or only met a few times and I got to know people who meant just as much to him that I never had the chance to meet. And then, after dinner, we went out and took the ancestor’s plate to give in offering. To our Gods, to the spirits of this land (including our oak tree ^_^), and our ancestors. We said the names of each of them aloud.
That’s when it got hard. I lost my Uncle Art this year – my dad’s cousin – as well as my cousin Jason (well 3rd cousin) and I really haven’t dealt with those losses. I haven’t dealt with them because it’s been easier not to, with Mammaw and Pappaw passing so close together so recently. We’re coming up on 2 and 3 years, respectively and I still grieve for them in odd moments. Last year, I didn’t feel them at Samhain and that was hard on me. This year, I didn’t get the sense of their presence the way I had gotten my Pappaw’s the year after his death. But I felt them, briefly. It’s good to know that they’re together – though no one who knew them would be the least bit surprised by them being together. My grandparents are who I strive to emulate in my relationship with my husband. Pappaw passed away just before their 60th wedding anniversary. Can you imagine? 60 years together. And they were still in love with one another. I had the pleasure of spending time alone with my grandparents, particularly when I was in college. I’d call my Mammaw and ask if they minded me joining them for dinner – which was always met with “of course, sweetheart” (pronounced swee-dart) – and I’d go have dinner with them and spend a few hours just enjoying being around them.
Sorry, I got sidetracked. But for me, that’s exactly what Samhain is about; remembering and reconnecting with those who have gone before. Telling the story of my Paw Biggun (dad’s dad) fly fishing at my parents’ house and coming up to the house because he got the fly caught in his ear and Momma (I think) having to get it out for him. And for me this is especially important because the older I get, the more I hear about who these people were to the world at large and how they were seen through the eyes of older family members. My grandfather just there? He was a sumbitch. He lived in a time that taught him to be possessive of his wife and to take a firm hand with his children. He was the kind of man who I would never allow around my children. But to me? He was this giant of a man who taught me history in a way that instilled a lifelong love of it.
It’s the same with my grandparents – Mammaw and Pappaw. There were no two people more supportive of who I am than them. But since their deaths I’ve heard endless statements of “Mammaw would have NEVER…” and “Pappaw HATED…” Yes, my grandfather disliked tattoos. But when he found out about my tattoo? He shook his head and said, “I’m not surprised that you got one and I guess if anybody would know what they wanted, it’s you.” See, my grandparents seemed to always recognize that I was different from the rest of the family – even the two of them. And when someone would say something to make me feel bad about accepting who I am, it was my grandparents who told me that I can’t be anybody but who I am. When I was little one time, my cousins and I were talking about our favorite flowers. Both of my cousins said roses – Mammaw’s favorite flower. I, of course, said daisies, since they’ve always been my favorite. They laughed and said those were weeds, yada blah. And I went crying to my Pappaw who told me it didn’t matter what they thought about it, they were my favorites and there was nothing wrong with that because they were pretty flowers. Did he actually think that? Who knows. But, as always, he encouraged me to just be me instead of be who everyone else expected me to.
These are the people who I share with my husband and these are the people who I’ll share with my children. I know that others will share their own versions of these people with my husband and my children – it’s not my job to tell my little family what everyone else thought of these people. It’s my job to let them know who they were to ME. And Samhain is a great day for just that.
I hope that your Samhain brought you peace and gave you a chance to reach out to those who you’ve lost. If you needed to mourn, I hope you were able to mourn. And I hope that you were filled with the love of the memories of those who have passed before. Because even if you don’t believe they can come visit you, you know that remembering them brings that love back just as strong.