In Memory of Saints and Souls

This year I have been to many funerals, and not been to just as many. Most of my friends are Platonists and I don’t know what to say when it comes to the end. Should I go with Socrates – ‘there’s a fifty percent chance that the soul is immortal’ – or with religion – ‘hope you make it to the pearly gates’ – or with atheism – ‘whoops, only one life, sorry you fluffed it’.

I have in fact been quite disturbed by it all and I feel as if I’m clinging to ghosts who cry, ‘Let me go!’ So when I came across Chinese lanterns in a shop recently, I thought, ‘Aha!’ I would write their names on one and release it. When better than November 2nd which is All Soul’s Day? Then a friend told me that these lanterns have metal bits that cattle can choke on, so I’ve put them in the bin. Now the plan is to line the garden path with jam jars and nightlights.

All Souls is the feast day for the recently departed who may be in purgatory: a mass held in memory of them will help release them. There doesn’t have to be one feast of All Souls. Eastern Orthodoxy has several per year. And in the old days if you were seriously rich you could build a chantry chapel and fund a chantry priest to say mass for your soul every day. (If you were seriously rich, you’d probably need to).

I was surprised to read all this, for how can we judge who amongst our friends is in purgatory? And what happens to those who went to the other place (i.e. heaven)? A little further investigation discovered that they are looked after today, November 1st, All Saints’ Day, previously known as All Hallows. Soul or Saint? Who are we to judge? Human judgement often seems to me to be a mean-spirited, dogmatic affair, unless it be Solomonic. So to play safe, I’m going to hold my ceremony tonight to cover both the saints and the souls on my list.

Go free, dear, sweet spirits.

In memory of poets and philosophers: Michael Shepherd, Christine Moodie, James Armstrong, Joy Roberts, Dorothy Erskine; of my mother, Sybil Grace Proud; of our cat, Poppi and my sister’s dog, Dougal; of my cousin’s son John who, in an act of triumphant courage, went to meet death on his own terms in Zurich.

Plato had a secret certainty that the soul is indeed immortal, and gets to choose the next embodiment. Let’s hope he was right. Meanwhile, prayers for everybody who’s soul is in the balance and being weighed against a feather.