Yes, I know the creed says “the communion of saints,” but this is the phrase that I’ve been pondering the last couple of weeks. It came out of teaching the third article in confirmation, where the kids were hyper-focused on the word “communion” and thought it meant taking communion (the Lord’s Supper). So we shifted the word for them to “community” to help them understand it a bit better.
We found ourselves teaching about this on the day our church celebrated All Saints. Funny how that works. I could say it’s ironic, but the truth is I know God lined it up for us. Yesterday was hard. Hearing Samantha’s name being read in church was so hard, and then hearing my husband preach about the joys of heaven and the saints who have gone before us added to it. I don’t know how he got through it, I couldn’t have done it. I barely managed to sing with the choir. We’ve both realized that our grief is hitting us all over again in the last week or two. I think for a while we were just plowing along and trying not to think about it. But grief demands to be noticed eventually. Sometimes it clobbers me like a rock being dropped on my head. Other times it’s like falling into quicksand. Still other times it’s like wading in the ocean – lapping around my waist but manageable until a big wave comes and I surface drenched, spitting saltwater and wiping my eyes.
One of the things I’ve come to realize through this whole process is that our society’s picture of death is very messed up. We look at death as an enemy, as an evil. Part of that is because we read again and again in scripture about the enemies being sin, death, and the devil. But I’ve realized something this year, that death is not a scary, evil thing. It is the door to eternal life. Now, eternal death is something else – that’s the scary, evil thing – the hell that awaits all who do not believe. But death is merely a door between this life and the next, and there is a beauty and a gift to it that I’ve only just begun to see.
I think God has placed a healthy fear of death on our hearts, so that we don’t all just take matters into our own hands. Sadly, some still do, but I’ve realized more and more that it’s not an act against others but the course of a disease (depression) becoming fatal, no more or less so than cancer or heart disease. The difference is that those of us who remain behind cannot begin to understand it. I heard that a family in our town was affected by this illness and tragedy on Friday, and my heart goes out to them and their grief. And while I know I myself am depressed and I long to see my children again, I cannot allow this illness to take my life, if only for the sake of my family who remains. We have lost so much already.
As I ramble through all of these thoughts, I want to leave you with two pieces that struck me. The first is a quote from the front of a bulletin somewhere, shared in this blog post: :”All Saints celebrates the baptized people of God, living and dead, who are the body of Christ. As November heralds the dying of the landscape in many northern regions, the readings and liturgy call us to remember all who have died in Christ and whose baptism is complete. At the Lord’s table we gather with the faithful of every time and place, trusting that the promises of God will be fulfilled and that all tears will be wiped away in the new Jerusalem.” I just think this is a beautiful way of putting it for All Saints day.
The second is merely a link. His words about how he feels about his impending death are so reflective of the thoughts and feelings I had in accepting that Samantha was going to die. It’s been since her death that I have struggled more. But that is the nature of grief.
I find myself saying several times a day how much I miss her. Sometimes it’s aloud, but more often it’s just to myself. And I’ve learned to give myself permission to do it. That’s been the hardest thing.
PS. Thanks Bethany for the prayer on Sunday. I love being part of a church tradition that celebrates the same thing in many places throughout the country (and world)!