At Samhain, one of the two times a year along with Beltane when the veil grows thin, we remember our beloved dead. If you've been with me for any length of time, especially in one of my Wildwood programs, you've probably heard me talk about my German Oma telling me fairy tales and magical stories when I was a child. She always told them, never read them, I imagine repeating how her own mother told them to her. It was her stories that inspired me to go to grad school for German literature and that created such a deep love in me for oral tradition, magic and folklore.
Her name was Lisbeth Behrendt and she was one of the most gently strong women I have ever met. She lost babies, raised two children, and was a war refugee. She survived two world wars, Nazism, Communism, and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. Because of her experience with totalitarian regimes (and my grandfather's penchant for speaking out against them no matter the consequence), she carried a lot of fear, especially of authority, yet somehow in the middle of all the ugliness she remained the kind of person who would pull passing strangers into her house to feed them after the war when everyone was poor and hungry.
She was the kind of woman who sold her gold wedding ring on the black market in exchange for a loaf of bread to feed her family. She lived a lot of her life in excruciating pain from a leg doctors wanted to amputate when she was just a young woman, but she wouldn't let them, because she loved to dance.
I remember once when I was about 20 and she was in her 70s, sitting with her in the kitchen while she told me about the village she grew up in and the dances the local nobility there would hold, inviting all the young people in the area. And as she spoke, suddenly she started dancing around the kitchen, doing a little folk dance. She was always graceful, but in that moment all the years melted away and I could see the joyful, flirty, young girl she once was.
She was Lisbeth and she was my Oma and her compassion, care for others, and desire to make the world kinder and better live in me.
Who are your beloved dead and what are their stories? What piece of them to you carry with you and in you?