Tag Archives: the Dead

Lamenation for L

L is my cousin who is currently on life-support, thousands of miles away. When L’s mother, my aunt, takes her off of life-support this Saturday, those who were able to travel will attend L’s memorial service.  L and I were the best of cousins, and truly the best of friends.  Since I can not attend her memorial service, I have written a Lamentation in honor of her.

Aside from all this, I’m feeling almost relieved and grateful that this sudden turn took hold of L quickly (I learned of her collapse on the 4th), and that she will soon no longer be attached to the body that caused her so much hurt.  I will always be thankful that she lived into her thirties, enriching my life and the lives of everyone around her, because we’ve come close to this point many times as we were growing up.  I will miss everything about L, especially her smile and her laughter.  I think I spent a few hours this morning just remembering the sound of her laughter…

~

You were my first true friend

As children, we ran with the dogs

Laughing and playing

Truly, you were the greatest friend

My cousin

O, humorous one

Quick-witted

You were the kindest among us

In your innocence

I will remember you

O, radiant one

Who dwelled in beauty

For all of your days

Smiling

With eyes that could not see

The Dead Are Not Silent

Hello, everyone.  I am still not really in a position answer any correspondence, which includes comments for this post, but I find myself temporarily with internet service during this tumultuous time, so I thought I would type up a little something that has been brewing in my mind for a while. I will be back less sporadically after a few more days, I hope.  :)

~

It is March, and during this month, in addition to the many purification festivals I’ll be trying to observe, of which there are more now due to consolidation of the Treasury’s calendar, I will also be celebrating the lives and deaths of persons who have become very important to me and my spiritual practice.  The first to be recognized in March, at least this year, was Saint Katherine Drexel, whose feast day in the Catholic tradition was yesterday, March 3rd.

Saint Drexel was the second American born Saint to the canonized, which was completed October 1st, in the year 2000, by Pope John Paul II.  I do not have much love for most in the Catholic tradition, however Saint Drexel is a important exception for me.  This is the first year she’ll have been talked about and celebrated by my family, but certainly will not be the last.

As a socialite in 1800’s Philadelphia, no one expected her to enter a religious order, but she did not allow those opinions to sway her from her mission to better the lives and conditions of the indigenous American, and Black American populations.  Her entire life was spent for the betterment of these disenfranchised peoples, while using her considerable inheritance to build schools, missions and churches for the least cared for peoples in the country. From her, I’ve learned that it is possible to devote oneself to the unceasing calling of one’s God, and that it is possible to make a difference in the lives of the poor and dispossessed.  I do not have to be a Catholic to understand and appreciate the impact of Saint Drexel’s legacy on American society.

The second person to be honored in March will be the philosopher and mathematician, Hypatia of Alexandria, who was murdered by a Christian mob on March 8th, 415 A.D., in Alexandria, Egypt, after much civil unrest and bloody attacks by feuding Jewish and Christian citizens of Alexandria.

Hypatia’s only crime was to be a learned woman of Pagan leanings in a city where the Jewish and Christian peoples were at each other’s throats.  After much back and forth between the two warring sects, and after being accused of influencing one of the leaders of this feud, Hypatia was kidnapped, beaten, stripped naked, flayed with oyster shells while still alive, dismembered, and finally burned.  And though her death was brutal and unforgivable, Hypatia’s legacy of philosophy, astronomy and higher mathematics lives on today in those who remember and honor her, as well as those who follow in her footsteps, especially women.

What I have learned from her personally, is that no matter what one does or doesn’t do, knowing and being oneself is most important, simply because we can not always sway the minds of others.  The world is a dangerous place, and sometimes we will be targeted for our beliefs, or for political reasons, but we must not allow fear to silence us, not even the fear of pain or death.

Near the end of March, I will celebrate the life and death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I, of England, whose date of death was March 24th, 1603. Queen Elizabeth is widely regarded as one of the most successful monarchs in English history, having presided over what is often now called the Golden Age.

After much contention and religious strife in the country during the reigns of her half-siblings, King Edward VI and Queen Mary I, the succession of Elizabeth was a welcome opportunity for change.  Through her moderate rule, Elizabeth was able to quiet the civil unrest that had long plagued her people, though these reforms were not without risk to her life and person. She was targeted several times by plots to return England to the control of the Roman Catholic Church, especially after Pope Pius V’s papal bull in the year 1570, which released all Catholic citizens of England from allegiance to their Sovereign.

But, as history tells us, Queen Elizabeth was ultimately victorious in winning the hearts and minds of her people.  The lessons I take from this, are that striving for the middle way is oftentimes the most desirable course, when in fact one’s goal is to reconcile disparate factions.  Compromise can lead not only to the coming together of things once thought irreconcilable, but also to the growth and maturation of newborn respect for one another’s differences.

So, there you have it; all those whom I will have celebrated, or will be celebrating, during this month of March, 2015.  May the many Gods and spirits, especially those of our honored dead be remembered, and may they continue to observe our trials and accomplishments for the betterment of our world and societies.

Hail to the Deathless Gods!  Hail to the Beloved Dead, and may they, and we, never be silent!

For the Cemetery Dwellers

Fear keeps the living at arms length, knowing that they too will
One day meet their fate inside some
Rotting box, deep in the Earth.  No longer visiting as once
They did, they cast your memory into shadows, and
Hear not your voices calling.  Only the cemetery workers will
Elude to your presence when they speak of winds that suddenly
Calm, as they come near your cubicle graves.  Is this the price
Extracted through generations of removal from the old rites and
Mysteries of Death?  To be forgotten, and left in this wasteland,
Endlessly wandering among the manicured lawns?  Descendants no longer
Tend to these cities of the Dead, nor do they
Enshrine you, their Beloved Ones, with words of joyful
Remembrance.  Cut loose from the fabric of time, drifting beyond the
Years, you long now only for closure.  So I have come to
Dine amongst you, to set your end in motion, and to
Wash away the trauma that has persisted.  Death should be
Escape and elation, not tomb and torture; therefor I call to you, those
Languishing within the past and having no future.  And I call to the
Lords and Ladies into Whose care you soon shall
Enter.  Be still.  Know that your time has come at last.  You will
Roam free in fields of flowers and deep green, and feel the piercing
Sunlight of Elysium bathing you in endless love and wealth and beauty.

Walking In the Shoes of the Dead

History is a growling beast lurking in the haze of collective memory and forgotten secrets, which were never secrets, at all.  It (mostly) exists out in the open, if you know where to look.

I’ve been familiarizing myself with the history of my local area, and it certainly comes with some revelations, and also a lot of parallels to today’s state of affairs.  The more things change, the more they stay the same describes it pretty accurately.  But you can not assume it was any particular way based upon what I’ve written here.  You’d have to have been here, or be here now to see what we see, in order to understand.  Many of these revelations are disheartening, though I suspect they are some of the reasons we were brought back here so abruptly.

History is a tapestry of rainbows, dazzling the eye with gleaming color, while dark and spotted in some places, and worn down and frayed in others.  The frayed parts can be mended, and the stains can be washed clean– to a point.  There will always be those visible reminders of the worst of times, yet we must let those reminders be our memorial to the washers and the menders.

Reading these accounts, connecting with the Land which bore witness to these triumphs and atrocities, leaves me with a changed outlook and a renewed sense of purpose.  When I put myself into their shoes, the shoes of the Dead who walked this Land before me, I know that it was mere luck of the draw that had me born into this era rather than that era (or any other era), and I imagine the type of changes that could have been affected by one of the indomitable (if not physically, at least in spirit) persons from that era being born in this one.  It motivates me to affect a comparable change, so that our descendants may focus on the great injustices of their own time, leaving ours to the debate halls and history texts.

History must be put into its proper context.  I’ve found that I can not have one side without hearing another, and the broader truth paints an image more awesome and complex than anything I’ve read on the subjects which interest me.  I’ve also found that those who have gone before desire to be remembered, and to have their stories told.  There are lessons in the lives of the downtrodden and dispossessed, with much hard-won knowledge to be found.

So, I walk in their shoes, tracing their steps, feeling their aches and pains. Soothing, easing, learning to mend and to wash.  This is what they tell me I’m here for, and that it is necessary for our community.  We don’t want to repeat the same mistakes, or be swept up in the same kind of hysteria.  We must overcome our past, and refuse to be enslaved by it.

Who Remembers the Forgotten Dead?

Taking the question at face value, it would seem that no one remembers the forgotten ones.  They pass into obscurity after their loved-ones die off themselves, or move on to other communities.  If they were members of a marginalized group, they may even be discarded, while in the grave, by whatever community remains around them.

I bring this to your attention, because I’ve recently been made aware of a little-known old slave and freedmen’s cemetery near to my city.  It’s closed off, and the buildings are sealed, however, an historical marker has been placed there, and the grounds are kept mowed.  But, no one visits the many, many (estimated 2000) unmarked graves.  Only six of the graves have markers, and two of those are of unknown individuals.

How terribly sad.  All those people, those families, generations of families, buried there without even their names.  And, of course, there are condos built over a section of the original site.  It just makes my heart quake with grief and anger.  So, I’m going to pay a visit to the cemetery, spend some time there just remembering those who have no one left to remember, and making offerings.

I wish I could have found an account from one of the people in the local cemetery, however, I could not, so instead I share with you an excerpt from the narrative of Mr. William Adams, of Texas, aged ninety-three years, born into slavery:

“Yous want to know and talk about de power de people tells you I has. Well, sit down here, right there in dat chair, befo’ we’uns starts. I gits some ice water and den we’uns can discuss de subject. I wants to ‘splain it clearly, so yous can understand.

“I’s born a slave, 93 years ago, so of course I ‘members de war period. Like all de other slaves I has no chance for edumacation. Three months am de total time I’s spent going to school. I teached myself to read and write. I’s anxious to larn to read so I could study and find out about many things. Dat, I has done.

“There am lots of folks, and edumacated ones, too, what says we’uns believes in superstition. Well, its ’cause dey don’t understand. ‘Member de Lawd, in some of His ways, can be mysterious. De Bible says so. There am some things de Lawd wants all folks to know, some things jus’ de chosen few to know, and some things no one should know. Now, jus’ ’cause yous don’t know ’bout some of de Lawd’s laws, ‘taint superstition if some other person understands and believes in sich.

“There is some born to sing, some born to preach, and some born to know de signs. There is some born under de power of de devil and have de power to put injury and misery on people, and some born under de power of de Lawd for to do good and overcome de evil power. Now, dat produces two forces, like fire and water. De evil forces starts de fire and I has de water force to put de fire out…”

Read Mr. Adams’ full narrative.

I think it is important that we remember our Dead.  All of our Dead. Especially those who are often left out of the official history.