On my morning walks I pass graveyards with skeletal hands groping for sunlight, dementors gliding through trees ready to suck out souls and decapitated heads hanging by porch lights.
I’m puzzled by these Halloween decorations that seem to have gotten more outrageous every year. Seldom do I see a jack-o-lantern with a crooked smile or a friendly ghost.
We have skeletons on our lawn but we are so ambivalent about them in the rest of our lives.
We avoid death very ably in most parts of our lives. Age is impossible to detect in the women in my community. With colored hair, carefully applied make up and work out regimens that would rival Olympic triathletes, many women appear ageless. I’ve often wondered if the focus on achievement, performance and the accumulation of wealth is a way to outrun death. We schedule memorial services for our convenience. Soccer games, concert performances and vacations take precedence over honoring the departed. Death doesn’t interrupt anymore. But we splay it all over our front lawns.
Has Halloween become a secular Ash Wednesday? On Ash Wednesday Christian pastors and priests put ashes on the foreheads of gathered worshippers and say, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It is a day to acknowledge our mortality, confront our limitations, and confess our brokenness.
Do these Halloween decorations only reflect the popularity of the Walking Dead or do they reveal something hidden deep in the recesses of our minds?
Do the ghouls hanging from a neighbor’s tree remind us that we are not in control of everything?
Does walking by a mock graveyard remind us that we cannot outrun death?