It’s that time of year. The time of year when death and grief seem to be everywhere.
Yesterday was Halloween, when children and adults dress in costume, many as ghosts and skeletons. We sit in cemeteries at night, waiting for ghostly apparitions, or maybe just the Great Pumpkin.
Today is All Saints’ Day, when we remember the saints and their importance in church tradition.
Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day, when we reflect on the lives of those we loved.
Day of the Dead.
Guy Fawkes Day.
Lots of loss for one week, isn’t it?
Once again, I’m sharing information on a unique festival taking place the first week of November in Scotland: To Absent Friends.
Scotland has a tradition of storytelling, especially at this time of the year. And though it had become somewhat out of fashion, a group of people decided it was time to revive both storytelling and remembrance. To Absent Friends runs from Nov. 1-7 around Scotland, and the festival includes an impressive array of events, including:
A primary school in Bathgate is dedicating a storytelling chair, where children can sit and talk about a loved one who has died.
Wigtown is hosting a variety of creative writing events.
In Glasgow, they are continuing the tradition of ‘tell it to the bees’, as well as a powerful remembrance of the 47 homeless people who died there in 2018.
There are brunches and afternoon teas, memorial walks and art projects, receptions and concerts – all being held in Scotland the first week of November.
Grief, of course, does not respect the calendar. Losses happen every day. But maybe it’s a good thing for people to come together at a specific time of year to remember those absent friends. For me, this year, it’s a longer list:
My dearest friend since we met in college in 1973, David Beckwith, who died in September.
Another college classmate, David Aurand, whose panel from the AIDS Quilt I saw for the first time, just a few days before our friend David died.
The irreplaceable Delle Chatman, who died in November, 2006, whose belief in me pushed me to a writing career.
There are others, many others, I could list. Your list is long, too, as the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Schmich acknowledged today.
And it sucks. Sorry, but it does. The list gets longer as you age, but again, grief does not respect the calendar. You can lose many friends when you’re young, as military veterans and HIV long-term survivors can confirm.
But if I learned anything in writing the Friend Grief books, it’s that those friends stay with you. Their spirit, their memory, their influence all continue to guide you long after they’re gone.
Because though those friends may be absent physically, they are always with you. Always.
And that’s something to celebrate.