Tonight Susan and I will sit on our front porch and greet with candy and a smile a diverse assortment of Trick ‘r Treaters, ranging from little kids to college students. They’ll be outfitted in costumes sweet to scary and come in cars, vans, and even a hay wagon pulled by an ATV. All harmless fun in which we gladly participate.

 

Not everyone agrees that Halloween is harmless, of course. The typical fundamentalist Christian rant connects the celebration with Satan, pagan rituals, ghosts and goblins or even sadistic and evil psychopaths. And indeed, those fed on a steady diet of B-movies (“If it’s Halloween, it must be ‘Saw’”) and the Sci-Fi Channel (“31 days of Halloween,” featuring all sorts of horror flicks) would be hard to convince otherwise.

 

Halloween is about death. But in the origins of day, at least, talk of death is seasoned with hope, not fear; assurance of peaceful rest, not unending pain or torture; and loving remembrance of those who have passed on, not haunting by the specters of those who cling to this life. The original form of the word was “Hallowe’en,” that is, “Hallow Even,” the eve of All Hallows, more commonly known as “All Saints’ Day.”

 

All Saints’ (November 1) is a time to offer prayers for and bring to remembrance Christians (sometimes called “saints” in the Bible) who have joined the Church Triumphant. Typically, their names are recited as a portion of the Great Thanksgiving at the Eucharist. And they are celebrated in other ways as well, whatever the customs of families and loved ones may be. The following day, All Souls’, brings to heart and mind all those who have died and asks God’s mercy and peace for them.

 

This year All Saints’ and All Souls’ will be particularly poignant for Susan and me. First we lost our beautiful and beloved dog Penny, a wonderful miniature Dachshund that brought a great deal of joy and laughter to us. Then came the passing from cancer of my sister Carol Ann, about whom I have written in this blog. Along with us, her husband and children, my parents, and her friends continue to feel the loss of her love and service keenly. She was a vibrant woman who cared deeply for the elderly and for those who seemed to be ignored or shunned by others. Finally, just this month, Susan’s dad Neal joined the saints around the throne of God. His example of hard work, integrity, gratitude for the smallest things, and deep love of family inspired us all. Though we rejoice that he is free of Alzheimer’s and reunited with his beloved Elaine and their son Ernest, we miss him deeply. On All Saints’ for Carol Ann and Neal and on All Souls’ for Penny, we will lift up prayers of thanksgiving for the great gift God gave us in their lives.

 

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, says the Spirit. They rest from their labors, and their deeds do follow them.”

 

© 2008 Tom Cheatham

 

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