Keeping the lights on.

When I was younger, we always went trick-or-treating. My dad loved Halloween and wanted us to love it too, so he told us exciting tales of pillowcases full of candy. We weren’t allowed to dress as witches or fortune-tellers or demons, but we were encouraged to enjoy the holiday. I watched this change over time, as my friends and their families pulled away from Halloween. I watched as people began to believe that it was a time to be afraid of evil. When I worked in a Christian bookstore, it was a source of much frustration for me as the churches were moving towards Harvest Festivals and Halloween Alternatives. What was so wrong with Halloween? Why let Halloween be about fear rather than fun? A few years ago, my pastor talked about Halloween, about the gift of imagination and what it means to laugh at things like fear and death, what it means to defeat evil through ridicule and laughter. This article talks about some of those same things that he said. It has stayed with me over the years, the idea of laughing instead of being afraid. Of mocking the things that have no power over us.

I think the pendulum has swung back a bit, or maybe I’m just not in the same environment that I used to be. All I know is that every year, I look forward to handing out candy, to seeing the little ones in their costumes. I look forward to our Great Pumpkin Party. And this year, Mike took things a step further when he decided that we would continue the Great Pumpkin Party fun on Halloween night itself, by offering s’mores and cider to the trick-or-treaters (only the ones we knew, do not fear). I would have been happy to sit inside and watch Halloween episodes of our favorite shows on Hulu, but Mike forced me outside to talk and eat and play with our friends. We sat in our carport with our twinkle lights on and our fire going and handed out candy and played Trivial Pursuit. Our friends came by and hung out for a while. And in the middle of it all, I remembered this John Fischer article in CCM back in 1999. He talked about being at home on Halloween, about interacting with the community around us. I realized that what Mike had done was a holy thing, that he was living out his faith in a real and meaningful way. He wants to know the people in our community and to be known by them. He will be the first to tell you that he is not good at committing to things and to people, but he is trying. And on Halloween, that meant doing more than just handing out candy.

I know you wish I would stop going on and on about the church calendar. And I am sorry. But this Sunday was All Saints’ Sunday, which happened to fall this year on All Saints’ Day. This is the day that we take to remember those in our church and in our lives who have passed. We speak their names, and this year we lit candles in remembrance. I looked at those candles and saw joy and pain intermingled. People we have loved who are no longer here with us. I am always thankful for this Sunday – it is one of my favorites. It’s right to take the time to remember the people we have lost, to name them and to acknowledge that empty space in our lives.

We laughed at evil and death on Halloween night. I saw Superman and kitty cats and a football player and a gumball machine. I lit candles to put in the jack-o-lanterns. And the next morning, I lit a candle in remembrance of my dad. The juxtaposition of the two is so perfect for me – death, you have no power here. Instead, we remember those who have gone before and who we will meet again. And we will keep our lights on, not because we are afraid, but because we love those around us and want to share our lives with them.

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  1. Aww, I love y’all. 🙂

    Posted 11/3/2009 at | Permalink
  2. Carol

    When you write such a reflective, deep, and thoughtful entry such as this, I think that those of us who read your blog are often left feeling like we have nothing else to say. I know that sometimes I feel that anything I might add would only detract from what you just said. Just because WE don’t have anything to say doesn’t mean that what you said wasn’t appreciated and/or important, or that we don’t care. In fact, quite the opposite is true…

    Anyway, thanks for this post. I’m sure Dad would have enjoyed the Halloween festivities and appreciated the remembrance on All Saint’s Day. (Counting him among the saints just doesn’t seem quite right does it 🙂 – even though was one in the Biblical sense.)

    Posted 11/4/2009 at | Permalink
  3. maribeth

    Hi Kari, I love your writing and your blogs……have you ever thought of writing a book? I want to blog on here too but I’m not even sure how to start?

    Posted 11/8/2009 at | Permalink
  4. Daniel Tess

    Can you imagine me, an average middle-aged guy sitting in his office in Sydney, Australia, and stumbling on your blog page? Your writing is lovely.

    I just sent a couple of your blog links to my mom, and said that I felt like getting up from my desk, going straight to the airport, flying to NC, buying some flowers and giving them to you and shaking your hand. But of course I’m too busy and I might seem like a stalker…

    I went to college at Duke and stayed around NC for a few years after. I wish I had known you all then (maybe I did!), and that I could pop over on Halloween and play Trivial Pursuit and hand out candy. But I would make them do a trick for it dammit, none of this free-riding that has taken over these days!

    Cheers to you from far away

    Posted 8/18/2010 at | Permalink
  5. Alex

    ^What Daniel said, x2.
    Thanks for writing this.
    I’m going to light a candle for your family and mine right now, even though it’s not All Saints’ Day. For all those we will never forget.

    Posted 2/20/2011 at | Permalink

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