Remember, Commemorate, Celebrate
God be in my head and in my understanding.
God be in mine eyes and in my looking.
God be in my mouth and in my speaking.
God be in mine heart and in my thinking.
God be at mine end and in my departing.
– Old English Prayer
All Saints’ Day is a time to remember all those who have died, especially during the past year. While there is an emphasis on giving glory to God for these precious lives, and celebrating there is no death, but rather life everlasting with our precious Lord and Savior, it’s still a time of mourning for me.
You may have heard some say that the veil between this world and the next is "thin" during All Hallows Eve, the day that precedes All Saints’ Day. And while that may not be a literal truth, if you are thinking much and often about your loved ones, and especially if you recently experienced a death or have a loved one near death, the veil does "feel thin" between worlds.
I’ve had the experience of being with some of my own family and friends during their deaths, and on each occasion, I am reminded how fragile life really is. The first time I witnessed death was at the bedside of my best friend on July 3, 2002.
I was right there next to her…so close…so silent…and aching as she took one last breath in this world. Her last breath was but a shallow whisper. And even as her breath became weak and was eventually gone in this earthly realm, I knew her breath was getting stronger as she prepared to soar on wings like eagles in Heaven’s realm. After the whisper was gone there was stillness, disbelief and shock. She left us too soon. We had months to prepare, but it’s never enough, especially with one so young.
Why, God? Where’s the miracle we’ve been praying for? How can you take a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend?
I just couldn’t wrap my mind around why a 42-year-old beautiful, capable, faithful woman with a daughter in high school was taken from us by the dreadful disease of Leukemia. She grew to be content about the path God put before her. Yet again, I asked Why, God? How can she be content and accept this? How can you be content to take her now?
Answers to the questions? There are none.
Pain? Yes. It is always there for everyone I loved much and lost.
Contentment? Yes, because I know where they are now. Out of pain, cheering me on, loving me still.
I think that’s the greatest part of being a Christian. When you are in Christ, you know you are heaven bound and the love goes with you! What an irony that I can hurt so deeply and feel such joy, almost simultaneously, when it comes to death and eternal life. I find it equally ironic that I can ask “Why, God?” and question God’s love even while knowing that God’s love is never in question.
So at this time of year, during All Saints’ Services or Services of Remembrance, we remember. We commemorate. We celebrate. We are reassured. I’ve sat many times in the services, in the evening’s shadow as names of departed loved ones were read. I’ve listened quietly and thoughtfully as the bell was tolled for each one, reverberating through the sanctuary. I’ve felt the bell tone ripple through me as the tears of remembering my loved ones flowed down my cheeks. And while the emphasis at those services was on those who died during the past year, I never fail to remember all those beloved saints I’ve ever loved and lost.
Fortunately, at these services I am also quickly reminded this is a time to rejoice, continue living in joy and love, giving gratitude for family, for friends, for love. It is a time to be reassured that God knows and understand us, has felt our pain and joys, and is with us always.
It’s all such an irony… the thought of death and life eternal. How can there be death if there’s life eternal? Maybe I need to change my thinking regarding death. Maybe I shouldn’t think of death as death. Maybe it’s really like driving from Oklahoma to Texas. You take one breath in Oklahoma, cross the Red River and take the next breath in Texas; you’re just in a different state. The breath never stops. Nor does life.
See the tomb is empty, He has been raised from the dead!
Eternal God, what wonderful gifts of life and love you have given us.
As we think of the memories that tie us to our departed loved ones and experience the pain of their death, comfort us.
You are unfailing love.
Though we question why, you remain faithful to us.
Though we may get angry, you love us still.
When it feels like we may not be able to withstand any more, you strengthen us.
When life sometimes feels bitter and cold, you help us cope and warm our hearts.
And when life seems hopeless, you give us hope and new life.
Even when we cry out for healing, we know that we will be made whole, if not in this life then in eternity.
And when we experience the deep pains of death and loss, we can know joy because we are yours.
You call us by our name.
You saved us and have a place already prepared for us to spend eternity with you.
What joy, what love, what peace we have knowing the plan of your salvation.
Who are we that we should be so blessed?
God of all blessings and by whose power we were created and redeemed,
Enable us by your Spirit to serve you and all people,
To live this day in love to one another and to you;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,