Today, the 2nd November is All Soul's Day and my husband's birthday. I normally write about All Souls and just tag on the fact that it's my husband's birthday but today, it's the other way around.
As I write, my husband is very ill, lying in a hospital bed in Port of Spain General Hospital where he is being taken care of by the most amazing team of doctors and nurses. Even though so ill, he insisted that the family take cake and ice cream for the medical staff today. Hardly able to speak, he called me at 6am this morning to ensure I had everything set up including plates, spoons, forks and napkins. By 9.00am my daughter and I were at his bedside having handed over the goodies to the nursing staff. Visiting is normally 11 am to 1.00pm and 4.00pm - 6.00pm. We were allowed to stay on the ward with him from the time we arrived until whenever we chose to leave. I have always made an occasion of special days in the lives of each family member but I did not for one moment think that today I would be by my husband's bedside in a hospital. However he is in good hands and we keep positive, strong, united, have faith and a determination that he will survive this terrible ordeal and heal.
Having brought some people up to date on my husband's state of health, I will now say that All Soul's is a Catholic day of Remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away. On this day, during Requiem Masses, the Office of the Dead has to be recited.
The theological basis for the Feast is the belief that those souls which have left the body not perfectly cleansed, or have not fully atoned for past sins, cannot yet see God. According to some tradition those left on earth can apparently help these souls on their journey from Purgatory by praying for them, offering Masses and giving alms.
Today and this evening many families will go to their family plots and graves, gather around and even bring picnic baskets to celebrate those who have gone before them. Tonight every forgotten grave will be lit up by candles so that the cemetery/ graveyard will just for one night of the year, be bathed in candle light. I would like to think that visitors would also light a candle on graves of the forgotten. In many instances those graves where the loved ones lie are not forgotten. It's just that for various reasons not everyone can visit a loved one's grave. My father lies over 4,000 miles away and there is no way I could fly to be at his side tonight. But I can and do light a candle for both he and Mummy at home this evening. Even now it's burning brightly beside a photograph of them together.
I like the customs and traditions of some European countries where candles are burning continuously (24/7) as one did on my Austrian grandmother's grave. Sadly there is no one left there to look after my grandmother's grave but I do know that the graveyard keepers, when they know there is no family left, do keep the candles lit. In some of those countries there is a photograph of the deceased together with an eternal flame.
The Benedictine Monastery, Mt St Benedict, Trinidad
My wish on this All Souls is that the souls of my departed relatives have found peace. And whilst I am wishing them peace, I also wish for complete healing and for peace of mind for my very sick husband. Happy Birthday darling! Uncomfortable though it is and somewhat painful, you can do this!