I just returned from my first All Souls Procession. It was many things.
The overwhelming number of humans gathered together in one place is the first thing that hits you. And then you realize all these people are here because they lost a someone, or maybe more than one someone. My note inside The Urn had four losses on it. There was a wave of emptiness those people pushed ahead of them in that procession. A void not to be filled.
They came to remember. Because something deep inside of us knows that is the path back to wholeness. We can not hide from the pain of loss. We can only heal it if we embrace it fully. We must remember the people we loved and lost.
Grief demands to be felt. And in this space — it was brought out to be felt, turned over and over, shared, cherished, burned, and given up to the heavens as the gift it is. To love means to grieve, for eventually — sometimes through no desire of their own — those whom we love leave us. Only those who have never loved, do not grieve.
I watched the procession this year with my family. We had placed our pain on scrapes of paper in The Urn. As the procession passed by us resolve over took us — next year — we walk and participate not just spectate. It was a unanimous decision.
Souls came by us holding signs, wearing photos, dressed in costumes, pulling floats, on stilts, lit up by lights. They came and they came and they came. The message from all of them was the same though. We. Remember. You. You whom we loved are not forgot. We celebrate with love and joy the time we shared together on this Earth.
At the end of the walk we watched — no felt — the drums of Danza Azteca claim the land. Slowly at first and then with increasing intensity the beat reached out to cleanse the space. The drums beat on and on rhythmatically weaving each of us into the trance. Minutes melted into one another. Time dragged on, because the making of sacred space takes time. We had time. We gave time…time. By the end of their performance you could feel the shift in the air. What had once been an open lot was now sacred ground.
The Tucson Symphony played music, aerial acrobats twirled, performance artists came on stage and portrayed life, birth, death. Through it all we watched knowing what was coming.
And then it happened, suddenly without preamble. The Urn lit up above our heads and you could feel the collective gasp from the crowd. Thousands of souls exhaled into the void. We had shared our pain, taken our collective baggage out and unpacked in public for each other to examine. But yet — there we stood — shoulder to shoulder — exhaling into the void. Together.
And for those few moments as we all watched The Urn burn, we were not alone anymore. We were a community, remembering.
The Dead should always be remembered. They are our future. No one gets out of this life alive. Too many people forget that about life. The transitions. The ending of our lives should be as joyful as the beginning.
And those left behind should have a place to share their memories, their pain, their love and their grief. May all the souls I encountered last night find peace — the living ones and the deceased.
All Souls Procession is funded entirely by donations. Please consider donating. The link is below. Or better yet, come to Tucson next year and participate as well. Bring your grief and prepare to be healed.