Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Saturday Hot Mess

"Grief is the price we pay for love". (Queen Elizabeth 11)

As the 14 November which is the first anniversary of my husband's death draws nearer, it didn't help this morning when the following favourite of ours, was played on BBC Radio2.  We would dance all night.

Meet a Saturday total hot mess.

When does the ache ease and the pain go away?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Birthday in Heaven and All Souls

Today, the 2nd November is All Souls' Day and my husband's birthday.  The problem is that my husband is now part of the group, All Souls.  For years I wrote about All Souls followed by a normally humorous tagline which read that it was also my husband's birthday adding what might or might not be for dinner! 

This time last year,  my husband was very ill, lying in a hospital bed in Port of Spain General Hospital where he was 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 so they could celebrate his day even though he could not.  It seems like yesterday that hardly able to speak, he called me at 6am that morning to ensure I had everything set up including plates, spoons, forks and napkins.  He called our daughter too just to double check.  By 9.00am my daughter and I were at his bedside having handed over the goodies to the nursing staff. Visiting hours were strict but 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 on that day I would have been at my husband's bedside in a hospital.  I wrote at the time that he was in good hands and we were staying positive, strong, united, had faith and a determination that he would survive the terrible ordeal and heal. It was not to be.  He left us twelve days later.  The build-up to today has been fraught and as anticipated, now it's here, is turning out to be difficult.  The next twelve days are going to be hard.  Not that the last twelve months haven't been but I do know enough to know that the first birthday, the first anniversary are hard. Even in my deep sadness, I know that I will get through this and I am blessed to have had such a man in my life.

I cannot let this day go with mentioning that All Souls' 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 is 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 candlelight.    I would like to think that visitors would also light a candle on graves of the forgotten ones.  In many instances, those graves are not forgotten. It's just that for various reasons not everyone can visit.  My father lies over 4,000 miles away and there's no way I could fly to be at his side tonight. But I can and will light a candle for both he and Mummy, and now Richard at home this evening. This morning I lit a candle for my husband.  It was only when I arrived at work that it occurred to me that I may not have blown it out! Panic stations as I called someone to pop in and check. Turns out I had extinguished it but probably for obvious reasons, my brain is not working well today!

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 it 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 origins of this day have been attributed to various religious orders.  Some say the Cluny Order (the nuns still teach here in Trinidad), others the Benedictine monks who are also very much here, living in the monastery on Mount St Benedict, a major landmark in this country.

                                     The Benedictine Monastery, Mt St Benedict, Trinidad 

Whoever it was, it is a wonderful custom which to this day, is celebrated, not only here but in many Catholic countries.

May God bless all those souls that have gone before us and as I hold my husband in my heart, this evening, even in my grief, I will lift a glass to him and give thanks for the wonderful years he gave me and the many memories that I treasure.  Happy Birthday my darling as you watch over me and the family from your place in heaven. x

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

All Saints 2017

Today, 1 November is All Saints Day which is believed to have been established in the early part of the fourth century and was known as 'Martyrs Day'.  All Saints is a Feast Day which honours and remembers all Christian saints whose names we know and those we don't.  Western Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans celebrate this feast today whereas the Eastern Orthodox churches observe it on the first Sunday after Pentecost. 

In the early days, many Christians were persecuted by the Romans and died for their belief in God.  To remember those martyrs, various dioceses set aside special days to celebrate.  In the early seventh century, the Roman Emperor handed over the Pantheon Temple to the Pope who removed the statues of the Roman gods and consecrated it as 'All Saints in recognition of those who had died from persecution during the first three hundred years after Christ.   Pope Gregory III instituted the 1 November as 'All Saints' in the diocese of Rome as he consecrated a chapel to all the martyrs in St Peter's Basilica.  Pope Gregory IV extended the feast to the entire church and that is where it remains today except in the Orthodox churches.  

That is how people came to be made saints in the early days and when Christians became free to worship openly, the church found other ways to recognize sanctity.  Early in Christianity people were made saints by popular acclaim which was then sanctioned by the local bishop.  For the last 500 years, the path to sainthood has been a much lengthier process and includes necessary proof of extraordinary sanctity.

In Catholic countries, this day is a Public Holiday and is seen as a Holy Day of Obligation meaning that one is required to attend Mass.  In other countries, the day is moved to the nearest Sunday.  Countries and cultures have different ways of acknowledging and celebrating this feast.  In Spain, Portugal, and Mexico offerings are made.  In Belgium, Hungary, and Italy flowers are brought to the graves of dead relatives.  In other parts of Europe such as Austria, Croatia, Poland, and Romania it is customary to light candles that are placed on the graves.  In parts of Asia such as The Philippines, it is also observed.  Relatives go to the graves of the dead, clean and repair them, lay flowers, and light candles.  In France,   church services are held but by evening the focus has moved towards the dead.  People crowd cemeteries and there is much cleaning and lighting of candles.  All Saints is closely tied to All Souls' Day, held on the 2 November which is dedicated to prayers for the dead who are not yet glorified.  

'All Saints' is not a public holiday in Trinidad but the tradition of the living, visiting the family grave in preparation for the 2 November, is strong and very much part of its culture.  On the night of the 1  November,  some Trinidadians still put lighted candles in their windows carrying out the age-old belief that 'lost souls' will be able to find their way home.

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