Precious wisdom pours into an open heart, open mind

Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

October 26, 2015

This is one of the most precious times of the year for me. It is All Souls Night, the night when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is said to be at its thinnest.

I pray joyously, revelling in the promised closeness. It is also the time when I can write down the names of my departed relatives and friends who have died in the book at the basilica. This gentle act of providing the book and promised prayers soothes my soul.

Two of my friends took their own lives. Like most of their other friends, I ache when I think of them, wondering if there was something I could have done or said.

TOTAL DESPAIR

One man - Joey, a writer who included in his writings the folly of suicide and how spiritually damaging it is - threw himself off a cliff, falling on jagged rocks below.

In my saddest moments, I cannot help but wonder if his death was instantaneous, or did he suffer in agony? Or did the angels gather his tormented soul up in their wings and take him to heaven?

In truth, both deaths were well-planned, their desperate distress well-camouflaged.

Each year, when I write Joey's name down in the basilica's book, I grin. Joey was a sometimes spiritualist, sometimes Buddhist. He must still be surprised by heaven and all its glory and also being the recipient of ongoing Catholic prayers.

When I write my Gramma's name down, I smile. This is a smile of remembered love. She died too soon and I do not know if I ever told her I loved her.

By writing her name down in the big book lets her know I still miss her.

Her name makes me laugh. It was while I was researching my ancestors that I discovered Gramma's middle name. It was Lulu. How nifty is that?

UNCLE BLAKE

It is also a time to write down the name of my uncle Blake. I of course never knew him. His plane, part of the Second World War's Moon Squadron, was shot down over the French countryside.

Several other relatives and friends' names are added and remembered.

But not that many.

Some people live a fractured and scattered life, usually not of our own choosing. I am one of them. Perhaps that is why this symbolic writing down of the names once a year in a sacred place moves me so.

It is like writing a love letter about my friends and relatives to God, his saints and angels.

Yes, there are prayers throughout the year. But writing declarations of my caring for them down seems like a proclamation of not only my fondness, but also my faith.

Too often, this caring is never expressed in life. It's a slap-dash world, with most people scrabbling through day-to-day struggles.

Many retreat into an electronic cocoon hiding behind a keyboard, ear buds always in, heads always bowed looking into their smartphone, thumbs furiously texting. Never in the moment. Never present to reality.

Remembering the following precious words gives me a much-needed nudge.

They come from Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation.

"Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants some thing in his soul."

I cannot help but wonder what those who have departed would say to me.

Gramma, a brilliant designer who never found her creative voice.

Aunt Connie, another artist, this time one her community would have recognized. Caught up in the world of status and image, she stayed in her marital cage.

Friend Joey? I can still remember our last conversation. He was on a cross-Canada book tour. He had come to see me at the daily newspaper where I worked.

Tired and not used to sharing his innermost thoughts with interviewers who usually had not read his book, Joey's flight was soon, so our meeting was brief.

MEMORIES

As Joey left, he handed me a copy of his book. Our goodbyes said, he was gone. I could not wait until home to see if he had written in it.

He had. Sweet words. A believer in reincarnation, one sentence he wrote stood out.

"May your lifetimes be few."

Pushed to distil what these relatives' and friends' lives could teach me, I find one sustaining thread amongst all of them. Make the most of the gifts God has given to you.

Wisdom from beyond.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)