I am not a big fan of Halloween. I never have been. Ghoulish things and the “celebration” of death have never sat well for me. I dislike it even more as its American commercialism has seeped further and further into our Australian culture with every passing year. It is getting big in our community. Last year (on a Tuesday night) my father-in-law “Keithy” reckons he counted 400 kids making the trek up and down our staircase before 6pm. He stopped counting after that!
We take part in this community event, because it is just that. We get to wave to school families as we sip wine from our veranda as our kids revel in handing out treats to their friends. And if a gaggle of their own friends pop past we let them go with that flow to enjoy the “receiving” bit too.
We trick or treat to a different beat. Our house is decorated with lights, brightly coloured bat kites and handmade decorations. I carve tropical fruits instead of pumpkins. It is pretty hard to make a watermelon or a pineapple look nasty – so I don’t try. My fruit lanterns shine with goofy smiles instead!
The end of October also means that another year has passed since I farewelled my friend Suzanne. My thoughts always turn to her family left behind, particularly her daughter whose birthday falls on Halloween.
Suzanne was a kindy mum I met when my daughter Teja was attending the local C & K. The kindy teachers told us that our two girls literally locked eyes across the kindy room and as if by magnetic force they simultaneously began that slow-motion, movie like walk towards each other across a crowd of rowdy classmates until they connected. They were inseparable from then on.
And so, Suzanne and I too became tethered. There are not many people with whom I make a deeper level connection. That “soul” connection, where conversation is easy, time passes in a moment and where diaries align without major effort. Despite our many outward differences, we shared that connection. And despite our paths diverging as our girls went on to primary schooling at different schools, their friendship (and ours) didn’t fall away. We were deliberate in keeping in touch.
Suzy was just comfortable in her skin. She was a vegan – but she was just so “normal” about her choices. She would always rock up with the yummiest of vegan snacks she had baked to share with us all. She was passionate about education and was studying teaching while working and juggling 3 kids. She knew so much and loved to share her learnings. She could play the acoustic guitar and often did so as a parent helper at the kindy…. but until her funeral I never knew how well Suzy could sing! Far out, she had one of those beautiful soulful voices, that just took you someplace else. A room packed full of people got to hear her beautiful voice, sing her own song about life and love.
Suzanne’s quite sudden illness and passing affected me. I think every death of a friend or a loved one does. But when good lives are cut short too early, it can feel quite devastating. I made her a promise to keep our girls connected and I will keep that promise because it will be easy to do. Her resilient girls, and her steadfast husband just blow me away every time we get together. We talk often of Suzanne and I often see her smile in those conversations.
“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one” Epicurus
Suzanne did such an amazing job of dying. I know that sounds odd to say, but she really left this world and her family with as much of her as she could. She made beautiful photo books, she wrote beautiful words. Her voice still sounds out from the CD she recorded. But best of all she left behind a legacy of being an awesome mum, wife, daughter, sister and friend just by living her life the way she knew she was meant to live it.
There are no rule books to grieving. Nor should there be. The path is different for each person. But the anniversaries are tough for everyone. So, Suzy as we wind around to another year without you walking amongst us – I am thankful to you that the time leading in to Halloween is less about that holiday, and more about remembering you, celebrating how you lived your life and resolving to live mine the best I can with the time I have.