Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints, All Souls, and All The Company Therein

I've been feeling a bit morbid recently, dear readers.  It's because of a combination of things, I think.

text: Requiem mass (translation: Lord, give us eternal rest)

My grandmother passed away in April, and we've spent the last few months disposing of her estate;  when my father and I went up to New York to pack up the furniture and personal items that we wanted to keep, I found myself caught over her books.  Grandma was an English professor and I knew that her interests were wide-ranging, but I had no idea that she had shelves upon shelves of political theory or classical psychology.  I took classes in each of those subjects while at college, but it never once occurred to me to discuss Hobbes or Freud with her - I wish it had.

Now that I have Charlie, I imagine my future more vividly.  Because he's here, right now, so full of personality, I can picture upcoming moments of my life - five years from now, or ten - in a completely new way.  He jumps up on the bed in the morning, his tail thumping the duvet, and I almost see Jon on the other side, grumbling about being woken up early but secretly loving the kisses the Charlie lavishes on him.  I pull on Charlie's ears and think of my child doing the same, Charlie rolling his eyes and grunting affectionately.  And then I think about how, after these things have happened, he's going to die, and I'm going to have a very long time left to live.

And for some reason, it suddenly hit me the other week that Jon's going to be my main person in ten months.  If something bad happens to me on August 23, the police or the hospital or whatever will call my parents. Once we're married, though, they'll call Jon.  In ten months, Jon's going to be my person, and I'll be his, and we'll have to make choices for each other, and that's a lot of responsibility.  Life is a lot of responsibility.

Love is a lot of responsibility - I think it boils down to that, actually.

It's strange to bring this up now.  We're in a time of joy - Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas are weeks of festivity and laughter.  But it's a time, too, to think about those who aren't here.  Today is All Saints' Day and tomorrow is All Souls' Day in the Anglican calendar, so it seems appropriate to remember and honor those who have gone before us.  It's also a reminder that the responsibility of love is also a gift - it's an amazing blessing to have these people in our lives, to cherish them so deeply and to be held the same way.  It's a gift in the same way that faith is a gift; I don't know how to put it into words, but, as I think about it, love and life and faith and trust and responsibility seem to bleed into each other more and more.

In Judaism, as in most traditions of Christianity, the mourners' prayer (or Kaddish) is full of praise and thanksgiving.  I like that.  In the midst of death there is joy and love and exaltation.  As you grieve, you rejoice in the blessing of life.

Arlington National Cemetery; photo via
text: Mourners' Kaddish (translation: exalted and sanctified be His great name)

Today is also the Royal British Legion's Poppy Day, when poppies are sold all around London to support and respect those who have served in conflicts past and present.  If you're in the UK, please consider buying a pin to remember those who sacrificed their lives for Britain.

21 comments:

  1. La Chapstick FanatiqueNovember 1, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    I lost my grandmother last November and, although I am a worrier, it struck an even greater fear in me about losing my husband. I watch my grandfather and all he has gone through the past year. They were lucky to have each other for so long but I worry about our time being cut short. I have been with my husband for over a third of my life and I can't see it without him in it. I know it makes no sense - I can't control it. But I understand those thoughts and feelings - beautiful post.

    http://lachapstickfanatique.blogspot.com

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  2. It is a HUGE transition when your partner becomes your next of kin - and it's difficult to think about how life would be without that person. I'm still very lucky to have all four of my grandparents alive, but I worry that it won't stay that way for very much longer. But you're right, it's so important that we see a celebration of life even in death. Such a well written post!

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  3. i never take the time to prioritize. being 24 i often equate it to worrying and why worry when you are young. However, when i read posts like this it truly jars me and forces me to remember who is important to me and to make them my priority. life is fleeting and we are blessed to even be able to have someone to call "your person." thanks betsy for forcing me to take a moment this morning to be thankful and tell the people i often take for granted that i love them.

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  4. thank you - I'm glad it spoke to you. Maybe we're supposed to worry, though... maybe it gives us a greater appreciation of the fragility of life? We can't control it, but we can take advantage of what we do have.

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  5. I find myself worrying and being super anxious about anything death-related. I know how you feel. Finding joy and love in life is so important.

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  6. thank you! the nonchalance of the legal switch is what blows my mind. I want to be like, "THIS IS A BIG DEAL, GUYS!"

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  7. thank you, lady. I'm sorry I made you cry. but also glad to have been part of this for you!

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  8. sorry to bring you down today :( but yes go find joy!

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  9. I find myself recently also being anxious of the death of people around me, and now that you mention it, maybe it's because Alex is going to be my person (I think he already is my person since he's my only "family" in England... if anything were to happen to me I doubt they'd call America). I thought I was used to death by now, lots of family members have died throughout my life including my grandparents and my mom, but it's different with your significant other I think.

    And I was excited to buy my first poppy on my own! Alex always sent me one but now I bought my own this year!

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  10. I completely understand, and I can literally bring myself to tears if I think about losing loved ones too often. And just wait, if you decide to have kids, these thoughts get even more intense!

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  11. It's amazing how having a dependent- two OR four legged- really changes how you act on today and plan for tomorrow. There are days that I get frustrated as can be at the dogs- okay, at Sloan- because I just want to be lazy, or it's nasty outside and I don't want to go out and I know that if she had logic, she wouldn't want to, either. All it takes, though, is the quick thought that I don't know how many more days I have with her, or with Max, and suddenly nothing else is important and I'll do anything I can to make today their best day yet. It's easy to forget to apply that same principle to the human relationships we have, but I do, and I know I'm not alone. Even if a human doesn't die, there are thousands of ways for the relationship to end, even if it's a passive end.

    Funny story, though, about Jon being your "main person"- I got my tattoos done the day a nasty blizzard hit Idaho. As I was driving home I hit ice and spun 180º on the overpass. Terrified I was going over the edge, my thought was "Oh no! They're gonna tell my mom the body has tattoos, and she's gonna say 'My daughter does NOT have tattoos' and then she won't know I died!!" At that point, Paul and I had been married almost three years. Pretty sure they wouldn't have called my mom to identify my body...

    I love your posts; they so often cause new waves to form in my brain. Thanks.

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  12. that's another thing - if this is how I am with Charlie, imagine what a wreck I'll be with children! poor Jon - haha

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  13. I think about your "funny story" happening ALL THE TIME. and I think I freak people out because I try to casually slip into conversation the fact that I want to donate all of my body when I die. but what happens if it's an emergency and no one can reach my family and they need to know my wishes and if they don't harvest my organs RIGHT NOW... morbid. way morbid. yes.


    glad nothing happened to you :) and thank you!

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  14. I hope that none of us ever get used to death :(

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  15. I love this post and it speaks directly to me. Ever since we got our cats, Baci and Misha, 4 years ago, they've become my life. Especially our little siamese, Misha. She is so close to me. We actually sleep together, with her under the covers resting against my body, every single night. We hold hands (paws) with one another and I cuddle her like a stuffed animal. Every single night. And Alex has said more than once "You are going to have such a hard time when she dies". It's true. Because we outlive our pets. And it's heartbreaking to think about.
    But on the other side of that is so much love. And responsibility, like you said. And it's great to have my husband there. Not only to love and to be my responsibility and to be my life. But it's also great to have someone right there to see the love I share with Baci and Misha. Because it's those memories, and the fact that we can share them, that make love and life so wonderful.


    So I am happy that you have Jon to see the same with how you and Charlie are. And I'm happy you have Jon. Because we all need someone, don't we?

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  16. After reading this I turned to my husband and said "On November 11th, which is a Sunday, please can we watch the last episode of the fourth season of Blackadder?"


    I might not be able to buy a poppy out here, but I'll have my own way of showing respect.

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  17. YES! the sharing is so much of it. thanks for the reminder :)

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  18. we all have our own ways - I'm glad you can share yours with him!

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  19. What a great post; so honest and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing your experiences! Its so easy when someone is gone to think of the things you should of done or said. I have a pooch and the mere thought of her not being here is enough to bring a lump to my throat. She loves jumping on the bed in the morning and I cant imagine what life will be like without that morning ritual. Hopefully I wont have to find out for many years to come!

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  20. thank you. fingers crossed we have our doggies for as long as possible!

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  21. Love is a great deal of responsibility and when we commit to another person, it's not just a love commitment we're making, it's a life commitment. It's putting our life in another person's hands, and that person isn't our parents. It's a really big deal. There is a lot of trust wrapped up in love.

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