Last Saturday, I traipsed around Mt. Auburn Cemetery with a group of tweens on a scavenger hunt. It was an amazing journey, organized by a father of one of the tweens. As anyone who has spent time with middle schoolers knows, balancing fun and learning, so that enthusiasm is maintained and sighing is minimized, is No Mean Feat. We did OK.
Our merry band of tweens walked from site to site, sometimes taking in the historical notes and sometimes just kicking the leaves around. From time to time, one got the feeling they were quietly awakening to the awesome mystery of life and death, of our connection to those who have come before, and to their own place of privilege as dwellers in the age of antibiotics, indoor plumbing, and decent dental care.
All of this is good stuff to ponder as we approach the great holy day of All Saints, which is November 1. All Saints has been eclipsed in our culture by Halloween, when Americans will spend $7 billion on costumes, candy, and inflatable lawn ornaments. I have nothing against Halloween, but I adore All Saints Day, because it brings together in tradition and song all the complicated and overlapping truths we live with about human life and the ways we depend on one another to pass along faith and hope.
The photo above shows some of our tweens peering into the grave of Isabella Stewart Gardner. It was she whose largesse made it possible for the Society of St. John the Evangelist to build a monastery on Memorial Drive in Boston. My children were baptized at that monastery, and the monks there continue to offer enormous grace in my life and the life of many. I hope my children and the other tweens left Mt. Auburn that day a bit more thankful for her and for all those who’ve come before them and a bit inspired to make a difference to those who will follow them.