All Souls Stories: Two Tales from the Vault

Mourning, in the streets: wearing Marcy’s nightgowns for Tucson’s 100,000-person All Souls Procession two years ago.

Participating in a powerful community mourning and remembrance ritual

Each year, Halloween looks more like Christmas. The lights are orange and white instead of red and green; fake spider webs stretched over hedges, instead of fake snow; the giant inflatables with motors droning, just as unconvincing. But amidst the holiday-du-jour trimmings, there’s something more macabre springing up on lawn after lawn. Fake graveyards. With body parts reaching out. Full-size skeletons, both human and canine.

I’m not sure what to make of this upsurge in death decor.

For me, the veil does seem thinner this time of year. Many of my dead have been reaching out. So many faces surfacing through Facebook memories. Marcy aglow with the zeal of a Cancer Warrior; Marcy cadaverous. Kathy, cadaverous and aglow, at a family wedding just days before her death. The reminders aren’t only digital. Every old growth tree seems to whisper the name of Bill, who loved these old ones with such a fervor.

In Tucson, tens of thousands are preparing to remember their dead in a community mourning ritual. Here, two stories of how we first stumbled upon the All Soul’s Procession, then returned with a personal altar to honor my father and, later, a flannel-bedecked tribute to my friend Marcy.