For the past two years, I have attended All Souls’ Day mass on November 2nd. It is part of the Allhallowtide Triduum, beginning with All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day, and then All Souls’ Day. Barely two months after Nelle was born, it was the first time I had set foot in a church after we had lost her. The following year, I had lost both Nelle and Iris and still did not know what the future would hold for us. It gave me a strong sense of community to be around other people who were thinking and praying for their loved ones. In that type of situation, I always look around, trying to find the signs of grief on the faces of others. While people were gripping their candles, or sometimes holding hands with those near them, I did not always see the tracks of tears, even though, for the third year in a row, mine flowed freely.
As a self-described non-practicing Catholic who now attends a Unitarian Universalist church, I pick and choose where and when I go. Maybe because of attending that first service right after losing Nelle, All Souls’ Day has held particular meaning for me. I consider the Catholic fragment part of my vertical identity – passed from parent to child and somewhat ingrained and immovable. The practice of my current being is different, acquired, and more reflective of how I want to live my life and how I connect with a faith community. In a very real way, loss is a community of its own, and that is why I wanted to be there on All Souls’ Day.
The day had been wretched and I was wound up by evening, but took a breath and went. I was glad I did. Though I came home drained, I also felt calmer. I brought home the mass service program to put in the box I have for Nelle and Iris. If it had been going to my daughter’s piano recital or parent teacher conference, I would have gone without hesitation, no matter what kind of day I had. So I could do this for them. I also lovingly wrote their names on a candle and followed the procession of others in attendance to the front of the church to place around the altar.
It was of those days when I was cold from crying and could not get warm. Crying made me shudder. Shudder made me shiver. Shiver made me cold.