The first time I became aware of the All Souls Festival was when I was in Orangeville. I helped to set out tables and chairs and we proceeded through the ceremony. Whilst I believed in the afterlife, the ceremony did not make much of an impact on me. It was just nice to do.
Over the years the relevant paperwork has come through via email and sometimes I purchased a plaque, sometimes not – until my parents died even then I did not purchase a plaque every year.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, the ceremony became more important to me due to so many deaths from COVID-19 all over the world.
In 2021, listening to the directors of FLK speaking about the hungry ghosts and the lost souls who may be searching for peace, and the fact that although the souls may not still be of this world, any suffering they felt during their life time can remain, instantly made me think of my mother.
All her life my mother was a troubled lady, suffering depression and nightmares and if I may say so, quite a difficult person to live with. As she got older, she shared a story with me which helped me understand her behaviour.
At around the age of 5 or 6, she caught whooping cough and so did her younger brother but he died from the disease. A friend of my grandmother called to the house to offer her condolences and my mother heard my grandmother say “my daughter brought whooping cough home from school and my son caught it and died”.
My mother took those words to heart and felt responsible for her brother’s death and she carried that guilt all her life.
At the age of 93 she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and needed 24/7 care in a nursing home and the first night she was there she told me she spent the whole night talking about this experience to the nurse on duty. I hope she was able to ‘let go’ of her guilt at that time and find peace but that is something I will never know.
Having had the story go through my mind again and listening to the teachings, I can see that she could still possibly be a troubled soul and looking after all our ancestors after death and everyone in this world means so much more to me now and brings a deeper respect and understanding of our teachings.
Chanting (for All Souls Festival) is such a simple thing we can do to help others without having to even leave our homes.