I tried, I really did. As a family we often talk about walking the middle road in all things. So as Abigail gets older and is more aware of Halloween we began to try to find that middle road. We didn't want to be Catholics that rejected it all together. There are some aspects of Halloween I like (dressing up, candy). After losing Caleb and having all the joy sucked out of life, Im a firm believer that if there is joy and you can celebrate, then you should because life is just too short. So we were trying to find the good and toss out the bad sorta thing-dress up, but keep it nice and simple, not bloody or sleazy (and yes Im referring to our 2 year old-there are some costumes ever for her age that are awful).
I'll be honest and say I was really excited for this year's Halloween season. I'm 3+ years out from Caleb's death and holidays are finally returning to more joy than sadness. I was excited for Abigail to dress up and actually get excited. I was looking forward to her face as she collects her bag of candy. Simple joys, but so precious to me because I'm always aware that they could be gone in an instant. I knew we wanted to try out an event in the area at a local Wildlife park. I had heard that it was scary, but that if you came between certain times it was geared towards little kids.
So we went-and we painfully paid the $20 out of our small 2 week cash only budget to get into the event. Looking at the map I got excited-there were train rides, a s'mores station, story telling, hay rack rides and trick or treating stations. These are what memories are made of, right?
First stop-the train. Abigail was very excited to ride but once we got going the whole trail was filled with awful Halloween decorations. And really, I should have expected it but I think I was picturing more "Fall" decorations than Halloween. Fake people hanging from trees, people walking along the trails with fake blood, witches and devils everywhere. It was awful and the whole time I wanted to shield her eyes-because it was all so demonic and nothing "fun" about it. But I thought "maybe its just the train ride, on to better things!"
And so we went to the tick or treating stations. There were 12 and each one had a little themed station that you walked through after getting candy. I think 11 out of 12 were themed "cemeteries." As we walked through there were fake tombstones everywhere with phrases like "worm food now," or "Rest in Pieces." And at first I had to laugh, because the irony is that this event was located right by the cemetery Caleb's is buried in and we were actually planning to go visit him after this event. So fake cemeteries all leading up to the real one we would walk though at the end of the night.
As we went through more of the stations I got more and more mad. WHY is this how we decorate for Halloween? WHY is it acceptable to put phrases like "worm food," and "rest in pieces" as a decoration? Because its not some made up thing or joke-its the reality. Caleb's body is in pieces and is getting eaten by worms. I challenge any mom out there to stop and think about that happening to their child and try to still function. I hate it, I hate death. I don't need more reminders of what is actually happening to my baby. By station 4 we were done. We started just getting the candy and skipping the walk throughs. We left the whole event shortly after and the wave of grief it brought on was hard.
We made our way to the actual cemetery and it was like a breathe of fresh air. It was peaceful, calm, beautiful at sunset. A little hard because since the last time we visited, two more babies have been added to the group. But you know what the phrases on the tombstones in a real cemetery say? "Behold I make all things new," "Do not let your hearts be troubled, you have faith in God, have faith also in me." " Let the children come." Hopeful phrases that calmed my heart and reminded me that while my son's physical body is decomposing, his soul lives on, that death is not the end.
In conclusion-Halloween Im just done. There is no reasonable way I can teach my children about a hopeful death while participating in the scary death side of things. So for now we still plan to trick or treat each year and dress up, but no more events or secular things like that. How can I teach Abigail that cemeteries are not a place to be feared and that death has been conquered if I let her participate in this idea that death is "spooky?" The whole thing felt demonic and I wanted to run as far away from it as possible.
Alright, rant over. For me and my family we will be celebrating a Fall theme with the one night of trick or treating thrown in. I wonder how many others who have lost someone close struggle when they see the morbid Halloween decorations? And please stop with the skeletons-enough! They are the bones of a dead person, not some cute costume to dress your baby up in. Again, rant over.