By Clara D. Thompson
Today we remember. We remember all the saints who from their labors rest. We remember special and particular people as we light candles, as we hear their names read aloud or whispered in the quiet of our hearts. We remember those who have been dear to us who have died. We remember also the over 230,000 people in the United States, and the over 1.2 million people worldwide who have died from Covid-19 and we also hold in our hearts all of those who weren’t able to say good-bye. We remember. We remember.
Most of us, I suspect, want to be remembered after we’ve died. Oh, not for all of the dumb things we’ve done, but for the goodness we’ve tried to bring into the world. We want to be remembered as God remembers us, not counting all our sins, or remembered for the worst thing we’ve done. We want to be remembered for the good things we’ve accomplished, for the ways we touched the lives of the living with grace and kindness and compassion.
Today we remember … intentionally and with love … those who have been important in our lives. For some of us, our grief is still very fresh as we light a candle in the darkness. For others, our grief may be more seasoned, but it is every bit as real. And while we are grateful for our memories, our feelings of loss run deep and the tears well up in our eyes because we no longer have that person with us as a physical presence.
Today, we remember. And as we remember our loved ones who have died, and as we hold in our hearts the unimaginable but very real number of those who have died in the pandemic, let us also remember our faith, a faith that is our light in times of darkness, a faith that sustains us. From the 46th Psalm we read, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” (46:1-2a). We remind ourselves today that we are not alone in our grief, that God is with us even in the depths of our despair. Even when our hearts are breaking, when we are afraid and our faith is fragile, we can trust that God is still with us. The Psalmist writes, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:22). Our grief is made easier when we remember our God, the God who loves us, who claims us, who calls us by name, who shelters us and embraces us with holy and eternal loving arms.
We remember also the words of Christ, often shared at funerals and memorial services: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” I learned this passage of Scripture from my mother’s lips when I was a young child, after my grandmother had died. But I heard them first from the King James Version: “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” My grandmother was living in a mansion with God! To this day, I remember where she is, living in a mansion with God; both of my parents, my older brother, and many dear friends have since then joined my grandmother, have joined my God, living in a heavenly mansion.
This day we remember. We remember that we have each other to lean on as well. Though grief is exceedingly personal, it is also corporate. We share one another’s burdens; we share one another’s grief. We carry each other’s grief so that no one need walk alone. And sometimes our grief is such that we lose our grip on God, feeling as if God had abandoned us. That’s when we rely on each other’s faith, when our own faith is too fragile to carry alone.
This day we remember. As we come to the Table of our Lord, as we break the bread and drink of the fruit of the vine, we remember. We remember holy love poured out for us and for all. We remember those who have gathered around this Table with us in the past, breaking bread, drinking from the cup.
I am often struck by how much memory is wrapped into this sacrament, how much the memories stick with us long after we’ve forgotten a lot of other stuff. I recall visiting an older woman some years ago now, we’ll call her Mable. Her illness was pretty far advanced, so I wasn’t even sure if she quite knew who I was, though I’d known this woman for close to 30 years. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted Communion that morning, but one of her aids convinced her it would be a good thing. I was sitting maybe a foot and a half from Mable, with my portable Communion set between us. I began the liturgy with words that were so familiar to me, and that had once been so familiar to Mable. She was listening, but I honestly didn’t think she quite knew what we were doing. As I said the traditional liturgy, “According to Luke, when our risen Lord was at the table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them,” Mable’s face lit up like a Christmas tree, her eyes opened wide, and she exclaimed, “I remember that! I remember that!” with such joy that it was evident that the fog had lifted for her, at least for a time, and in the holy sacrament we both knew again that God was with us indeed. A few minutes later as we said the Lord’s Prayer, many of the words that she had repeated since she was a young child came back to her, and grace filled the room once more.
Today we remember. We remember our loved ones who now live in mansions with God. We remember our faith which has sustained us in the past and which we trust will continue to sustain us into the future. We remember the God who comes to us in Jesus Christ, the God whose love is eternal … for our loved ones and for us; the God who will always remember us, always and forever. Thanks be to God! Amen.