This is such a fleeting time of year. The tree that looked like a pillar of light, as the poet Mary Oliver would say, just a yesterday or two ago, is suddenly stripped of every leaf on a windy, wet day. The sun sets quickly as evening approaches. A field in which crops have been standing for months is harvested in hours. Increasingly, huge flocks of bird song are headed southward. In these days layered with endings, the ancient Celts celebrated New Year, Samhain, “summer’s end.” They divided the year into two great halves, the dark half and the light half. The dark half began on November 1 or more accurately at sundown the night before. It was believed then that All Hallows Eve, October 31, was a thin time when the veil between this world and the next was very slight. Samhain was marked with darkness and remembrance of those who had gone before us.
That emphasis on remembrance is preserved in contemporary Christian practice with the celebrations of All Saint’s Day, November 1, and All Soul’s Day, November 2, and most colorfully in the Mexican Day of the Dead. In one fleeting moment this week, I caught this photograph, a shadow of leaves soon to fall brushing the trunk of a growing tree. The shadow made me consider the trace we leave in one another’s lives. So many times I told hospice families that death is not the ending of a relationship but the altering of one. In other words, our ancestors and those of our generation who have died before us remain with us unseen but still present. From the other side of death we continue to receive their gifts, learn from their errors, and recognize our relationship. Who do you remember this month as darkness gathers?