Today is Samhain, also Day of The Dead and All Hallow’s Eve. The traditional meaning of the day is that there is a division between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and on this night, that veil is thin and messages, thoughts, images and other communication passes easily between. We’re supposed to remember our dead and honor them. I took some time this morning and jotted down some of my dead - the ones I could think of. Nobody especially famous, but important in one way or another to me. Just putting it down this way with the way that they died also tells you a bit about the shape of my life. Other people, living and dead, form the framework of any individual’s life and story. We can’t exist alone, and we need the relationships with others to survive and thrive. If Jean-Paul Sartre is right that “Hell is other people,” then the corollary must also be true, that heaven can be found there, also, and everything else in between. So here follows a not-terribly exhaustive list of my dead:
Howard, my mother’s dad - emphysema and heart disease. Age 80
Mark Greenke, schoolmate - Car accident. Age 17
John, my father’s dad - radiation poisoning from primitive lung cancer treatment. Age 74
Berlie, my father’s mother - stroke. Age 73
Mary, my mother’s mother - in her sleep. Age 89
Jocelyn, lover and friend - killed by a terrorist bomb on Pan Am 103. Age 26
Robert, my father’s brother - not sure. Age 72
Fran, Robert’s wife - not sure.
Marco - friend - AIDS. Age 32
Stan - friend - AIDS. Age 27
Gary - friend - AIDS. Age 30
Oscar - friend and jeweler - AIDS. Age 34
Lil - surrogate aunt - stroke. Age 75
Mary Kaye - dear friend - suicide by shotgun. Age 38
Greystoke - dear friend - cancer. Age 10
Rita - mother - stroke. Age 68.
Jim - father - lung cancer. Age 76.
Inconcievable - dear friend and companion - pituitary malfunction. Age 19.
Evy - adopted Jewish grandmother and saint - finally decided she was done here. Age 98.
Kathy - friend and neighbor. Trapped in her burning house. - age 70.
Kevin - friend and fellow performer. “long illness.” Age? Never knew. A few years on one side or the other of me.