I finished the biography I was reading on the great magician, Harry Houdini last night. All in all a very satisfying read - I don't usually read biographies but picked this one up a couple years ago because it grabbed my attention and was reduced to $6.99. There were a number of aspects about the book from a historical perspective that I found very interesting and relating to grief.
Back in the period of 1900 -1930, there was a huge following of the Spiritualist movement. This was actually practiced as a religion which believed in the occult, ghosts and other unexplained mysteries. Mediums who contacted the dead were very popular and 250 alone were working in Chicago. This group was well organized throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. Houdini had worked as a fraudulent medium in his early days and knew all the tricks of the trade. It became his mission in his later years to attempt to expose the Spiritualist movement and destroy it. He sincerely believed that the people who profited from their work as phony mediums were taking advantage of those most suffering and in pain - the grief stricken.
Houdini and various scientists (some from Harvard) worked to expose the tricks of the Spiritualist leaders and mediums. It was not easy since there were so many sincere believers. The movement gained momentum after World War I when grief stricken families attempted to come to terms with the loss of so many young men killed.
Although Houdini knew the Spiritualist movement was a sham, he wanted to believe that the dead could communicate with the living. He spent his life trying to prove that such communication existed and died without doing so. In other words, he had a very open mind and hope.
I have never heard of the Spiritualist movement. It was an interesting piece of history for me to learn. I thought of the thousands of families grieving for the death of their young men after World War I and cannot imagine what that was like for our nation at that time. There must have been a sort of collective grief and mourning that existed. I think of how those families are no different than all of us today just wanting one final word from our deceased loved ones. Basically to know that they are okay and happy. To tell them one last time that we love them. Those points keep coming back to me over and over again - communication and love. That is what matters most. I wonder for many of us, if our grief would be somewhat lessened if we did receive a message from beyond reassuring and soothing us.
So many of us did not have an opportunity to say goodbye and I think that this haunts us. I know it does for me since my husband was in a coma for two weeks - with it one moment and the next unconscious and unable to breathe on his own. I can also relate this to my divorce and why that became so devastating to me. Husband #2 did not want to and refused to communicate with me. His refusal to say goodbye to me after our mediation session was especially painful. Saying goodbye is essential for closure and not being able to do so leaves such a huge gap open of unresolved words, feelings and emotions.
Today I am grateful:
1. For another amazing fall day.
2. For those cool State quarters designed to celebrate our great nation.
3. For beautiful postage stamps that are little works of art.
4. For all the symbols of our country - the flag, eagle, White House, Liberty Bell, buffalo, cowboys, pioneers, Pilgrims...
5. For libraries.