Beyond The Veil ~ By Ann Dolbier
When I first encountered the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, I found it uncomfortable, macabre. It did not fit with my New England worldview of Halloween and the scary, exciting night of being out after dark, on a costumed, fun and candy filled evening. Without much thought I remember the next day had something to do with saints who had passed.
I have a hobby of coloring. I like bringing life to flowers and patterns. Shading and blending colors is comforting and calming. So, the one picture of a sugar skull, in one of my books, felt misplaced and disturbing every time the page appeared. I decided the best way to handle that page, other than to remove it, would be to color it. To begin I gave it a cheerful, colorful bright floral crown. It seemed soft blue eyes would tame it down a little more. When I held it up and assayed it, it seemed the skull belonged to a woman. Now, choosing her colors took on a new meaning. They needed to be strong yet gentle. Defined yet blended. Beautiful enough to overcome the look of death. Gold and Silver. Finished. I held it back to assay my handiwork and they looked back at me: Sue and Nancy and Pat and Chris. Four women who have influenced my life. Women who had suffered abuse and neglect. Women who had survived and lived fulfilling lives. Women who had built protective walls around themselves. Women who, some thought, were abrasive but were also respected and admired. Women who I had loved and who I knew had loved me.
Sue who taught me that the more you give love away, the more love the Lord replenishes that well of love. Nancy who validated me when my mother tore me down. Pat who somehow admired me even when we disagreed. Chris who gave her beloved yellow gloves to a stranger on a freezing day. Those soft blue eyes had become steel blue. Her features were strong but forgiving. Memories of our friendships flowed silently. These are the saints that I hope will guide me, one day, through the veil.
My first encounter with this “other-side business” happened at my first Celtic service. Father Scott had asked us to name aloud one person on the other side who is important and why. I struggled with the idea and finally came up with my dad, Kenneth, who was the only person, I believed, had loved me unconditionally, as a child. Since that day, Celtic spirituality has gently but firmly taught me truths I might never have known.
Like the Aztec sugar skull that the Spanish tried to abolish, love survives. There is a difference between the scary, terror celebrated Halloween we Americans enjoy and the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration of joy and love and family. The two concepts are reversed. I recognize and I appreciate thin places. I am grateful for the gift of the sugar skull. I am grateful also that another narrow-minded worldview has expanded. I especially look forward to Celtic Way liturgy this year.
Celtic Way Director