Aisling sat at the edge of the turnip field, a pile of perfect turnips piled beside her. She only needed one more. Her teacher had sent her out here to select the nine turnips that would be carved into lanterns to represent the skulls of the people who had died in the village for the procession on Samhain. Her teacher had told her that they used to use the skulls of people who had died. She was glad they had switched to turnips. She knew death was a part of life but she didn’t want to see the skull of her friend Beith that had died this year. She missed her so much. It still hurt to lose her.
It was an honor to be picked for this job. She had to find the biggest and most perfect turnips for the lanterns. This wasn’t easy because turnips grow underground and she had to choose hers before they started harvesting the field. She was supposed to pull the turnips that called out to her and those would be the right ones and she had one left to go. She wanted the absolute most perfect one for Beith.
She closed her eyes and reached her hands out trying to feel which one in the field was calling her. She felt a tug from the left and started to walk that in that direction. She kept her hand out and cautiously walked across the field. She closed her eyes and stood still and put her hands out again. It was close by, she could tell and someone put a turnip in her hand.
Aisling’s eyes flew up and a woman smiled at her.
“I think this is the one you need for Beith.” The woman said as she handed Aisling the turnip. It was a lovely one. Beautiful clear white and just an edging of purple around the top and it was clean with no soil clinging to it.
Aisling knew she had been alone in the field but it was the gloaming time and she was well aware anything could happen in the between times and for her it usually did.
Aisling studied the woman and was trying to figure out who she was when the woman said to her, “I’m Anann. I’m the one who came for Beith. She wanted you to know she is doing well but she still loves and misses you.”
Aisling felt a lump in her throat. She swallowed trying to keep it down. She didn’t want to cry in front of the goddess. Anann reached her hand out and smoothed Aisling’s hair which really didn’t help at all.
“She’s happy and safe and not in pain anymore?” Aisling finally got out.
“She is happy and safe and not in pain anymore. She and the priestess you helped have a message for you.”
“They do?” Ailsing wasn’t sure how that worked.
“They want you to know they are always around if you need them and that someday they will be back.” Anann told her.
“I so want to carry Beith’s lantern in the procession. Do you think that they will let me?” Aisling asked beginning to relax.
I don’t think the Chief Druid would have it any other way but you know you will be the youngest in the procession?”
Aisling nodded. She really wanted to honour her friend and not do anything wrong. Samhain was too important a time and she wanted Beith to be proud of her and know she still loved her.
Anann spoke and it was if she had heard Aisling’s thoughts. “She is proud of you all the time because you don’t give up and you’re always learning. Do you know what my job is?” asked the goddess.
Aisling thought and remembered, “To comfort the dying, and to make the fields fertile and to protect the cattle.”
Anann laughed, “Good! That’s some of it. I also teach the dying about their existence after they die and help them get ready to return. You know how your teacher told you that you are supposed to rejoice when people die because they are being born into the Otherworld?”
Aisling nodded again. She still didn’t feel like rejoicing that her best friend in the whole world was gone and it made her choke up again and start being angry. How was that something to rejoice about?
Anann looked at her. “The rejoicing part is the hardest, isn’t it? You still want and miss your friend. She still wants and misses you too but part of life is learning to let go and rejoicing when someone dies hurts. There is no way out of that but you need to know that that is you hurting and she doesn’t hurt any longer. No pain and no strife, she is at peace.”
Aisling was beginning to see the pain was about her. “Am I being selfish when I miss her so much?”
“No, you’re being human and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’d worry about you a lot if you didn’t.”
“Aisling, you are going to be a very good druid, maybe even a great druid and the best druids have felt all emotions and know that other people feel them too. They learn that everything isn’t about them. It’s about the all, everything and everyone that exists.”
Aisling was quiet for a bit. “Is it okay if I still miss her a lot.”
“Always, it will just hurt less and you will start to have more happy memories than sad ones.”
“Really?” Ailsing asked.
“Really and it’s even alright if you cry during the procession and the ceremony. It shows you loved someone.”
Anann hugged Aisling, “Don’t you need to take these and go help carve them into lanterns?”
Aisling grabbed her sack and started stuffing the turnips into the bag she’d brought.
“Not so fast, you don’t want to bruise them.” Laughed Anann and she helped Aisling put the turnips in more carefully.
“I’ll be watching tomorrow night with the rest of your dead. Be well, Aisling, you will be fine,” and Anann walked to the end of the field and was gone.
The next night Aisling lined up with the others. She was last in line with her lantern. She was very proud of the carving she had done. She thought she had captured Beith’s smile just right. They started the procession and Aisling started to weep. She missed her friend but it was going to be all right. She thought she got a glimpse of Anann, Beith and the Priestess in the crowd but it was hard to see by the light of the turnip lanterns and she couldn’t be sure. When she got to the hall where they were going to have a feast and celebrate the lives of their dead, the Chief Druid caught her eye and winked.
“What was that about?”
This post references the events in this story: http://thelittlestdruid.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/the-littlest-druid-learns-about-loss/
and this one: http://thelittlestdruid.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/the-littlest-druid-learns-about-healing/