All Saints, All Souls
It’s October 20th. Soon enough children will be donning their Halloween costumes – dressing up as ghouls, ghosts and goblins or faeries, princes and princesses. Then, they’ll go from one house to the next going, “Trick or treat!”
That doesn’t happen in our town. We don’t have children dressing up as monsters and any other mythical creatures while asking for candy. However, something else has got me thinking these days. And it’s not those children in costumes. Although, I do find Halloween itself rather questionable. Nevertheless, I have to save that for later.
For, right now, what bothers me are the first two days of November.
On the 1st, we have the Solemnity of All Saints. A celebration of all the saints in the world. Especially, ones with no feast days of their own.
Truth be told, those days are almost reversed in our town. And, probably, in most other places in the Philippines.
See, the cemeteries are much fuller today than they were before. So many more people are dead today than there were during the glory days of our parents. Which means, even more people would come to visit their dead.
Some people thought that visiting on the first of November would be much easier. Problem is, too many people had the same idea. In the end, both days make the cemetery quite crowded. Some people even take their visit to greater lengths by staying overnight, making them present at the graveyards for two days.
But, I digress.
What has been bothering me are the dead. Not that they’ve come and haunted me. But, to be more specific, the state of the dead.
I understand the dead to be… Well, dead. With no consciousness whatsoever of the entire world. For what’s the point in being dead if you’re not dead?
Now, some people… A lot of people don’t think that.
They say that, when a person dies, their soul, a different aspect of being with a consciousness of its own, gets separated from their bodies and flies up, around, or down to their final destination. That is, up to heaven to be with God and live happily ever after, around purgatory awaiting final judgement or getting a task to qualify for heaven, or down to hell to burn in fire and brimstone for all eternity.
Wherever a soul is headed, wherever a soul is, wherever a soul ultimately spends forever, the soul is deemed to be pretty much alive. Not dead. But alive and conscious.
Some people who believe this are even confused about it themselves. Not that they sound quite confused. Their words make me confused about what they truly think of the dead.
My mother once had her friends over for a drink. (Note that she’s old enough to pass for my grandmother. People who don’t know us and meet us for the first time would always think that.) They talked and all. Somehow, their discussions ended up being about what they wanted to happen to them when they die.
They’re the religious type of old people. They lead the prayers in worship. They also lead the prayers for the dead. Fervent prayers which are supposedly meant to ensure that whoever they are praying for get to be in heaven. To be with the Father and not burn in hellfire.
So, you could imagine my surprise when someone spoke up and said, “Who cares what happens to us when we’re dead? We wouldn’t know anything about it anymore. We wouldn’t feel anything anymore. We’re dead. It will be all up to our children to decide what happens to us when we’re gone. Not that we’d still know anything about what they’ll be doing by then.”
It is quite the contradiction.
And it’s not just that person. They all agreed to that. Neither is it just them. Too many people find themselves saying those words yet believe that the dead live. It’s even in the movies.
Last Thursday, I saw Raise Your Voice and found the exact same thing. (Which actually prompted this whole thing.) Terri finds herself believing that Paul, her brother who recently died in an accident, continues to watch over her yet also finds herself wishing he could’ve seen her final performance.
I don’t understand how people can live with that.
I’m glad I don’t have to live with that. If I had to, I don’t think I can. It has to be one way or the other.
What about you?
Do you believe that the dead are dead? Do you believe them to be alive? Or do you believe the dead to be alive yet dead?