|Cemetery in Ardmore, Ireland|
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, NRSV).”
One of my favorite memories from my time at Luther Seminary about 10 years ago is celebrating All Saints Day. I’d never heard of this holy day prior to my brief excursion into the Lutheran world. Walking into chapel that day we students were invited to light a candle in memory of those we knew in the faith who had passed on before us. The experience gave me a profound moment of being able to celebrate my mother and grandfather and miss them dearly all at once.
This year as I reflect on this All Saints Day, the list of names has gotten longer. My mother and grandfather still appear. Now coming to mind are Papa, Grandma, Mr. Don, my father-in-law, Uncle Jerry, Mr. Bill, and Jack Hart. And I suspect the weight of this day will increase as I age and continue to lose dear friends and family.
All Saints Day holds a number of emotions related to these losses in tension. We grieve those that we have lost, we take time to honor their legacies, and we remain rooted in hopes of the future activity of God. The sadness, while legitimately and deeply present, ought not consume us; for on All Saints Day, we also keep the sadness balanced with honor and hope. Honoring the legacies that those we have lost left behind, and in honoring their legacies, we (hopefully) find creativity and imagination in generating legacies of our own. And, finally, we try to dwell in hope. Hope that the loss is not the end of the story.
This All Saints Day, I am sad for me; that I continue on in a world where I can no longer talk with these beloved family and friends. In particular, I miss my mother and wish I had the opportunity to talk with her about the infertility craziness. Sadness, however, is not all that I feel.
I am also grateful for the legacy of faith and love that these folks have left behind. And feeling inspired by them, I strive to leave behind me a legacy as well. One where people encounter the love of Christ through me and find a safe harbor in my company. Some days this legacy is more intact than others; I still have feet of clay and make my own fair share of mistakes.
I know that these friends and family have gone on before me — and not forever without me. I shall meet with them again someday. Faith in the God who holds them and myself within great hands anchors me. I continue to hope that Jesus, who was resurrected, is faithful, and that one day I too will be resurrected with my lost ones.