1. Maureen Mullarkey discusses death and the jolly skeleton.
2. The entire month, of November, as she points out, belongs to the dead. It’s my favorite month, not least because I was born into it.
3. This is the first November of my life I’ve spent entirely away from home, and it’s very strange to never pass the cemeteries where my grandparents, aunts, sister lie.
4. The threat of unburial is frequent in the Illiad and Odyssey. Priam kisses the hand of his son’s murderer in order to regain the body, and Odysseus tells an enemy that the crows will peck at his rotting flesh, or something like that, I can’t find my books.
5. Unburial is horror for the dead, but what about the living? When we bury the dead we claim them. We claim the dead just because they are ours, and we love them, not because they are productive citizens or because they can feel bodily pain.
6. This seems to me the terror of exile–to be so far from one’s beloved dead. Not the struggle to build a new life, but its formless rawness, the weight of being only oneself and for oneself, existing only in the present. Home is where the burial ground is.
7. Zombie movies are comforting in their action adventure format. They can’t be real if they don’t show the suffocating grief of your dead refusing to recognize you, turning against you. There’s no peace in life or death when that happens, which I suppose is the premise of Zombie-hood. No one ever asks if the world is worth saving, though, and so the films reassure.
8. An unburied corpse is horrible, because he has not been claimed, and might turn against us. The peaceful solidarity of our present moment with our inherited past and inevitable future, of living and dead, depends on our tethering the dead to ourselves. Without the dead we have no “ours.”
7. Emily Bronte calls her ghosty menage “sleepers in the quiet earth,” and we refer to departed Christians as “those who sleep in Christ.” Christ will come to wake them all from sleep, but there’s an interesting range of possibility suggested in dormition. If you wake a sleeper too early, will she sleepwalk? Can you guide her gently back to bed, or will she become angry in her confused dreams?
I understand why atheists reject the existence of ghosts as a matter of dogma, but not why Christians would.