Beloved Dead

I am a Unitarian Universalist. Today, as on the final Sunday of every October, we held a celebration and ritual honoring our beloved dead. There was music — hymns from the congregation and songs from the choir, of which I am a part — and there were stories. There was prayer and there was meditation. And there was the naming. 

In one of my favorite UU rituals, inspired by celebrations of the dead in other cultures (including Día de los Muertos), we name our dead. Those who wish to do so line up to speak a name into the collective sacred space and light a candle. There are too many of us for each of us to name all our beloved dead; at the microphone, we get one name each. On our way back to our seats, or once seated, or if we never stand in line at all, we whisper the rest of our names into the space. The air between us can hold them all.

I have made it a practice to bring at least one name of a person I have never met. This year, the name I spoke at the microphone was a beloved professor who passed only weeks ago, but among the names I whispered was a dear friend of my gentleman caller, who died before I ever came into his life. Last year, it was my then-girlfriend’s late grandmother whose name I spoke. It is a small thing, but it helps me not only to keep connected to my own loved ones, but also to remember that I am but one thread in the interconnected web that binds us all. 

Your loved ones are my loved ones. Your humanity is my humanity. Your beloved dead are my beloved dead. 

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