The last time I was alone with Ron was October 31, 2015, when we walked in a new place, the restored train bed at Lorimer Park, where I showed him where the lower path connects to the running trail. We discussed how that path went from there through Pennypack Park and ultimately to the Delaware River. It was then Ron said, “Oh Mom, this is great. Some day I’ll run through the park and we’ll meet on the trail.”
Those words are captured on Ron’s memorial bench which is tucked inside the park, close to that trail he never did get to run.
I have the tenderest memories of that dusky Halloween afternoon and the walk along the path as we softly spoke about love and life, gains and losses and memories of years gone by. It was twilight when we drove home through Rockledge where many of the neighbors brought firepits out to their front lawns to greet the kids going “Trick or Treat”. We marveled at the old timey, small-townish warmth of such a lovely neighborliness. The memory of that walk on Halloween is deeply etched in my heart. It was a Thin Time which I will treasure always.
In Celtic spirituality, which predates Christianity in Ireland, this day of October 31 is celebrated as Samhain, a day that separates the season of light (warm weather) and darkness (cold weather). Also woven within that tangible and visible seasonal recognition is the belief that the seasons and the times they delineate have deeper meanings. In the case of Samhain, it is a day that is honored as a “Thin Time”, a time when the veil that separates the living from the dead is at its thinnest. Such mysticism holds the belief that our loved ones are always nearby, but at this time the veil is the thinnest, they are *that* close, as close as our breath.
Maybe it’s because my heart has been broken wide open by the losses of so many dear ones, but I have no trouble closing my eyes and sensing them all nearby. Even as I write this, I somehow feel Ron’s hand on my back. All I need to do is think about him and be present to myself and I feel the light pressure of his hand on my back. Is it body memory of the many times he escorted me across streets or is it Ron escorting me through another day reminding me he is at my side? Does the difference even matter? Not to me.
This day of October 31, 2018, begins an entire five months of significant Ron dates, each one a “Thin Time” that mark the season when Ron returned to the other side of the veil to continue his journey there with our other loved ones.
And so it matters not whether we believe in any traditional mythology or theology. We have all suffered losses of dear ones. On this day of Samhain, from which the Halloween festival is derived, it might be of comfort to remember them all with deeper consciousness and, in that way, bring them closer to us.
I invite you, if you wish, to think about friends and loved ones who have passed, then write their names in the comments section below. Christian tradition (learned from the Celts) observes the next two days (November 1 and 2) as the celebration of All Saints followed by All Souls, followed by the entire month of November set aside to honor them. November is when the season becomes darker day by day. In November it is all right to cry for seemingly no reason at all, just because it’s November, it’s dark and I miss my mom or I miss my boy or I miss my brother or sister or …. to just think of them and cry until the deepest sorrow passes. And, after a time of such suffering, the sadness does lift. Otherwise, we would all go insane with grief, would we not? Invariably the darkness of grief cracks open for, as Leonard Cohen wrote, “There is a crack in everything. That’s where the light comes in.” If we honor the grief and loss, we can celebrate the light and love their lives brought us.
On this Samhain, these are the loved ones I think of as my losses, not mine alone but losses shared by many others: Mom (Molly), Dad (Al), Nanny (Bridget), Pop (Pete), Nanny (Marion), Joe Eggleton (foster-brother), my sister Mary, her husband Landy, their daughter – my godchild Leslie, my brother Jack, Linda’s daughter Nicki, Jay (Ron and Joe’s step-brother), Anna (Tom’s mom), Joe, Evelyn and Myles (Ron and Joe’s dad and grandparents).
First and last for me will always be Ron, my firstborn. As I have written so often, to have a child die before you do is to expect that they await us, just on the other side of the veil. When I close my eyes for the last time on this side, I envision opening them on the other side to see Ron standing with welcoming arms and eyes smiling into mine, surrounded by all the souls and saints who await a loved one’s return.
“And when the work of grieving is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.”
― To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
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Ah! A moment of sublime joy!
…And for Jack
Happy Sampain and Blessed Be!
35 thoughts on “A Thin Place – And A Dark Season Begins”
My cousin, Ron.
My grandparents, Peg & Bill Ellis.
My great grandparents, Old Mom & Old Pop.
My college roommate, Brenda.
My aunt, Mary.
My cousin, Leslie.
I love this so much, Shawn! Your people are all around you tonight!
Cousin Liz- just this past July…I know she is here.
Helen Catherine Kelly Toland
1896-1979 Aka Nana and she is here anytime I want her close by.
Ah, thank you so much, Maryellen. They join us all in this circle now.
My parents Reva and Fritz
Todd’s mother, Hope, and brothers Eric and Brooke
Mentor and role model David MacInnes, and just recently is wife Kay.
Dear friend and fighter of MS, Andra Jurist.
Just holding them in the space you have made available for my loving memories. thank you, Marge.
Thanks so much, Sue. Your loved ones are so welcome in this circle as they gather around you and Todd on this night.
My grandfather Al,
my mother-in-law Gerda,
my nephew Anthony,
my brother-in-law Robert,
and Matthew T., and Stephen C., and Paul,
Thank you so much, dear Margie, for your perspective, your wisdom, your heart, and your light.
I receive the names of your dear ones into my heart and my world. I am honored to speak their names.
I take your loved ones into my heart, Spiegs. Thank you for trusting me with their names.
My son Arthur. I envision the same as my eyes close for the final time on this earth.
Cal’s mom, Concetta, who lived with us for 9 years – she passed away 2 years ago in June and has been on my mind a lot lately. Also my maternal grandma, Martha. It gives me solace to remember having tea with her and just chatting about “this and that”. She died in 1990 and has seemed close lately. And my mother’s sister, my aunt, Cressie who passed away this summer. This gives me a place to think back about her.
I remember your speaking with so much affection about Concetta. You’ve always honored the elders. It’s a blessing to have lived long enough to be one, is it not?
It is indeed, as I spent a lot of time listening to Concetta’s perspectives from the decade of her late 80’s, and now my own parents, age 89 and 90, who talk very openly about the inevitability of their deaths – now not something way off in the distance. I read a book back in the early 80’s you probably heard of, Passages:Predictable Crises of Adult Life, by Gail Sheehy. She went through each decade of a person’s life but only up to age 65! I see she has a sequel updating that. But in my own narrow experience it’s been nevertheless enlightening to hear what goes through folks’ minds up into the 90’s.
Thanks again, Marge, for sharing so openly and being so generous with your heart even when so wounded.
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…and this week, in the dance studio, we danced to welcome in our loved ones as the veil became thin
so Mary Burns dances with me this week – she passed only 2 weeks ago. Irish blue eyes smiling down on me and all around her my loved ones dancing too. Thank you Marge. This unexpected gift to my November 1st morning. I love you. Anita
Marge, thanks for sharing this. That spot for Rons bench is perfect in many ways. Love cousin Kathy
Dance on, blue eyed Mary Burns. Dance on.
My husband Glen, he passed away just 5 short months ago. And my mom and my dad, they both passed in the 1990’s. I always know that when I talk with you I’ll feel better in the end.
Ah Liz. 5 months or sometimes 5 days or 5 minutes, I know that. Jill has spoken so tenderly about your parents. I’m always here for you.
It is difficult for me to share, somewhat publicly, the names of those who I have lost who are dear to and close to me.
But lately, at my deepest introspective moments, I have been aching for people I don’t know personally but whose names and faces I see in history books and newspapers — those lost by acts of hate and genocide.
Sometimes their faces just show up in my mind. And I can only silently apologise to them.
I appreciate you giving me a safe place to put words to this heavy, pervasive feeling of grief.
I so admire your openness and the continuous work you do: pulling people in together to share love.
Much love to everyone.
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What a lovely, affirming response, Diana. You need not name anyone. They all have a place in your heart.
Dianna Pax, I feel the same way. And there have been so many tragic losses lately. It’s heartbreaking.
Thank you Marge, you seem to know how to help fill in little empty places. I hold dear my mom Veronica and dad Luis, my son in law Matt, my sweet friends Jean and Rochelle and the too many people that have been killed by racial and religious hate
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I love this response, M.O. Thank you. Thanks for remembering those who are so often forgotten.
My mom Mary
My dad Landy
My sister and best buddy Leslie
My Uncle Jack
My father-in-law and second dad Pete
My cousin Ron
My Aunt Jane
My Uncle Elmer, who taught me to drive
My sweet Aunt Charlotte
My friend Wayne
Our dear friend Rob
Thanks so much, Eileen.
Mom and Dad, Marge and Tom
In-laws, Frank and Lucy
Uncles Jack and Joe
Cousin Dan whose death by suicide two years ago still haunts my heart
Thank you Marge for this moment to cherish them and call their presence and that of all the holy men and women who await us
I always say every name out loud as I read them so as to draw them close to myself, too. Thank you so much.
Dad Eliott Francis
Aunt Una Francis
Grandmother Una Francis
Grandfather Leo Francis
Grandmother Theresa James
Grandfather Phillip James
Uncle Vaughn James
Mom’s partner Lou Campanile
Father figure Stacy Briggs
This blog so struck me, Marge, as I have been feeling so melancholy this past week and crying for what felt like no reason but here you have explained it all with such poignant beauty. Thank you.
Thank you, Naila. One of the blessings of this blog was that I get to read the names out loud of all these dear ones and bring them together in the ever widening circle.
Beautifully written piece Aunt Marge.
Thank you, Mike.
I don’t know how I wandered onto your site, but I am so glad that I did. This is beautifully written. I cannot fathom the grief you and your family must feel. Blessings to you.
Thank you so much, Rebekah. I deeply appreciate your affirmation.
My dad Julius
My brother Steven
My brother Anthony
My grandparents Andrew and Viola
My grandparents Andrew and Alice
My aunts and cousins who have transitioned
Margarite, your story is beautiful and has reduced to me tears. My forever condolences to you on the loss of your son, Ron. I will seek out his bench soon in Lorimar Park.
Oh, Cynthia, thank you so much. I will mention those names tonight in our Samhain gathering.