Wishing you all a Happy Samhain!
For those not familiar this is the original holiday behind Halloween, a Celtic holiday which signifies the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of the new year. So in a sense this is New Year's Eve. It is one of eight major holidays on the Wheel of the Year, all of which hold an absolute earthy seasonal significance, taking place on the equinoxes, solstices, and the mid points between them. November 1st is the middle point between the Autumnal Equinox (the day in Fall when the night and day are equal, and after which the nights begin to become longer than the days); and the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year (or the shortest day, if you will).
One this night, the veils are thinned between the physical world and the world of the dead, and it is considered a special time for reflection and honouring our ancestors and those dear to us who have passed. This holidays also resonates and is in sync with the Night of the Lost Souls between October 31st and November 1st, and the following day is Los Dias de Los Muertos - the Mexican Day of the Dead on November 2nd. And although I do not belong to any of these traditions, I found great comfort in discovering this immediate and fearless connection to Death and the dead. It is a day I now dedicate to remembering the dead I know in the family, and express my love and grief, inviting them to be part of my life despite the fact that their body is no longer with us.
This year, my family has lost two important figures: my great-aunt (my grandma's only sister), who lived in Hawaii, and like her, loved the seas and the ocean so much that she decided to make her home right next to it. And my grandmother, who passed a few months after, being hospitalized just a week after the first Covid-19 lockdown in March. I haven't been able to see her since December, for her birthday, and I've been heartbroken and traumatized by her passing without us being able to take care of her in person, let alone bid a proper farewell. It is an outrageous and devastating situation, and a price too high to pay for what is proving (in Israel, anyway), to not be a real pandemic. The real pandemic is people being lonely, isolated, going mad, and not being able to be comforted on their deathbed by loved ones; and for family members to be torn away from their elders, who are dying anyway, and deserve decent taking care of and a decent funeral too.
Last time I've seen my grandmother was four days after she was transferred from the regular hospital to an old people's hospital on Mount Tabor. We were only allowed one visit, 2 meters from the facility's gate, masked and gloved. My grandmother (hospitalized there because she needed an oxygen supplement 24/7) was wheeled down to the courtyard and a mask forced upon her face. She was not able to see or hear properly, because of the distance, and because her hearing aids and glasses were not with her. Somehow all this time of hospitalization they remained at home and not even with her in the hospital. Two days later I saw her again with sand in her eyes, at the funeral. She dies in peace in her sleep, they say. And I'd like to think that way. Because on the other side, for quite some time, her parents, grandparents and sister were waiting for her, and so did the two loves of her life - my grandfather and her highschool sweetheart, who came back to her life and was with her traveling the world until he passed away at 88. They were conversing with her in all those long nights when we weren't by her bedside. And also sometimes when we were around to witness her struggles between the two worlds.
Grandma was a jet-setter and one of the pioneering career women. She knew how to be generous and kind and also stand her grounds. Her secret was undying optimism, and a very deep sense of duty to whatever she was doing, and doing so happily. She always made a point of spending quality time with her grandchildren - each on their own, and not only as a whole group. This way she got to really know us and each of us felt close to her. She always invested in our future - insisting that giving us while she's alive is way more meaningful and satisfying than leaving us a fortune once she is gone.
My grandmother was my heroine, the core and heart and backbone of the entire family. A true matriarch that knew how to take care of herself first, and always be strong for everyone else as a result. I could always turn to her for advice, support and help. She was my perfumery's greatest fan, and only had good and supportive things to say about anything I do. Never questioning my choices, and always cheering me up when things didn't turn out quite as I hoped. She was my daughter's grandmother was well, which was so unique and a true blessing. And her favourite thing aside from traveling the world and swimming and playing bridge and entertaining - was to have us (all the family, not just me and my daughter) come over and stay with her for as long as possible.
I hope she is now in peace, reunited with her mother, who died very young, her father (my great-grandfather), who I was fortunate to meet, her grandmother, who lived with her in Berlin until she was 12 and fled to Palestine, and must have taught her how to bake amazing things and shower grandchildren with endless love; she probably is swimming with her sister in the great ocean between life and death now, because I feel they are both still close to our world now. Soon she will be playing bridge and backgammon with my grandfather and her boyfriend. They will all get along and be happy that they don't need to wear those stupid masks and that they can visit us whenever they want without having their temperature checked first. We just need to invite them.
How do I do that? Bake some of my grandmother's favourite food or things that remind me of her - like her honey cake, pumpkin pie, or browned apple torte; place a cup of coffee and a cigar for grandpa, burn some copal or cinnamon-laden incense, dab some Vol de Nuit and place Old Spice on my ancestral altar. Look at some old photos that remind me of how they were so alive and loving. Go for a swim in the sea in honour of my family's matriarchs. Roll some more copal incense. It is the food for the soul of the dead, after all...