There is something honorable about remembering those who passed before us, choosing a day or two to give reverence. For some, it is the anniversary of their death in human form or the anniversary of their birth on earth, or even both dates.
Many native American tribes had different rituals for how they respected and recognized the dead. The Apache tradition was never to speak the deceased person’s name again. They believed that to do so might impede their journey or “ascent” into another world. The Lakota, a tribe of the Sioux nation, understood that the spirit never dies, but that death of the body was part of nature, and nature was to be revered, always.
I treated last night, Holy Thursday, as a penitent evening even though I no longer practice Catholicism. Still, it’s hard not to wonder, if you knew you were going to die the next day, what last words would you speak and to whom? What face would you hope looked upon your own with love as you said good-bye to this life?
It’s a miraculous event to witness someone take their last breath, much as I imagine it is to watch a soul take its first gulp of air. I like Good Friday because whether one practices Buddhism or Catholicism or Hinduism or Islam or Judaism or Mormonism (only some of the organized religions of the world), it is a day of remembrance and reverence not only of one man, but anyone that we’ve ever loved or cherished, and whose soul we hope to re-connect with when it is our time to leave. These lives we are in today are neither the beginning nor the ending of our spirits. But, there is a complexity of now that is trying to teach us to love and to give and to be — in this moment — so that we may have unity of hearts instead of division of minds.
Sometime in the 1st century, a man named Jesus was crucified by the Jewish population under Roman law. From this sprang up Christianity and Holy Wars between Christians and Jews. Today, these two factions break bread together, still disagreeing but often coming to one another’s aid, even though their history was one of betrayal and brutality: first the Jews to the Christians, then the Christians to the Jews.
It’s amazing what happens when we extend respect in the form of remembrance and reverence. Most of you have someone you love or lost, and whose absence has been or would be devastating to you. If we took a fraction of that love and those memories and extended it out, we’d find peace between each other.
“Everything means something / Even if it’s Nothing …” – Fred Chappell, Poet Laureate