Wednesday, November 1, 2006

All Saints' Day

On the traditional Christian calendar, today is All Saints' Day. For Catholics in the United States, it is a 'Holy Day of Obligation', and mass attendance is mandatory. It is one of my favorite Holy Days, evoking memories of all the godly, holy, heroic men and women who have gone before me in the faith. It is a day for all the un-named 'saints', the 'every-Christians' who lived the Christian life faithfully and sometimes heroically - grandparents, neighbors, friends, whoever - who never captured popular attention so as to be canonized, but who yet were faithful and godly Christians. So, I have always loved All Saints' Day.


In recent years, though, the day has taken on a darker significance in Molly's family. Today is also the second anniversary of Molly's sister's suicide.

G and Molly were barely a year apart in age, but temperamentally as different as two sisters could be. Molly is bright, cheerful and sanguine; G was brooding, angry and rebellious. Being as close in age as they were, the two girls developed an intense sibling rivalry. Molly tended to be more favored by her parents; G was more popular at school. She ran away from home when she was 16 (to California; where else?).

In the course of time, she married her English professor and bore four children by him. She seemed to settle down into wifedom and motherhood, and her relationships with the rest of the family improved, either due to her forming her own separate identity, or to her living far away and only seeing us seldom, or both.

A few years ago, though, she called to tell us that she had left her husband. She seemed very eager to get Molly's approval for it. But Molly could only, in good conscience, tell her, "You're my sister and I love you," stopping short of fully accepting what G had done. And that caused some friction between the two of them. G's children grew up and left home, and she lived an increasingly carefree (or maybe aimless?) life as she passed through her middle-, and into her late-40s. It came as a shock when we heard she had ended her life.

In retrospect, I suppose we can see the seeds of it - her children were grown, she had left her husband; she was getting old enough that the young and exciting men were looking elsewhere than at her, and I'm sure that, on the most visceral level, she was lonely.

And yet, there was always something stubborn in G, to the effect that, 'if the world isn't going to be the way I want it to be, then too bad for the world'. It is entirely possible to see her suicide as the grand, final 'Screw You' to the Universe.

And, there seems to be something significant to the fact that she chose All Saints' Day for the end of her life. She and her husband had often traveled in Mexico, and she was very fond of Mexican culture; in Mexico, tomorrow, All Souls' Day, is called 'Dia del Muerte' - the Day of the Dead.

I don't really know why I'm so reflective on G's death this year; life goes on, and I never really knew her all that well. But I liked her, hard as she tried to make herself unlikable; she was sort of like Molly's 'dark twin' - alike, and so very different. I wish she could have been happier; I wish she were still here today. She should still be here today. And that's the tragedy.

I still love All Saints' Day, and all that it means in the Christian context. But it will never be quite the same. . .


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