I don’t think that All Saint’s Day truly resonated with me until two years ago. The Sunday closest fell on my birthday, and we were invited to the church my Mama loved and joined that last year she was with us. They were remembering all those who had died in the past year. Mama’s Sunday School class was having a gathering time to remember as well, and we were all invited to that too.
Sacred, holy moments. Hearing my Mama’s name spoken by people who knew and loved her and missed her just like we did–that was a precious gift. I can’t think of a lovelier way to have spent the day. Hugs, laughter, sharing stories, tears, gratitude, light, love, and remembering.
Much as we did today.
Our family was invited to Daybreak, the day shelter and resource center for those experiencing homelessness, to remember and honor my friend who passed on in May. She was instrumental in recognizing the need for this place, dreaming about it, and making connections that eventually saw it come into existence. My family and I have spent many Sunday evenings there in that place or, before it was built, just down the street at the park with our friends, serving and laughing and talking and being with people we came to love.
Much like tonight.
I had the great joy of preparing the hot chocolate for this evening. I so miss my Sunday rituals of preparing the coolers and making the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate for our friends’ supper at the park. It was my Sunday liturgy–giving thanks and going through the motions so that we could serve our friends and be a part of the Sunday night picnic suppers. (And don’t forget the marshmallows!) Tonight as the room began to fill, so did my heart. Face after face of friends we shared those suppers with, some whom we served with and others whom we served. My heart was full to bustin’, I’ll tell you what. All the hugs and catching up and moments of companionable silence. Standing side by side with these beautiful people and caring souls, all of us broken and full of light, as we listened to the names of those we have loved and said goodbye to this year.
We said their names.
We told their stories.
How we loved, laughed, learned.
And how we will continue to honor their memory.
I shared about my friend’s love of elephants and how, like an elephant, she never forgot what was important–love, family, friends, forgiveness, holding on, letting go, and taking care of each other. Relationships. Another friend shared about the seeds that our friend D planted in her life. Beautiful seeds that are continuing to grow and changing the world. It was when I heard a pastor talk about how D didn’t finish her work here that I caught my breath. What? So he agreed that she was taken from us way too early?
Then he continued, sharing from the Good Book that the poor will always be with us. So no, D didn’t finish her work, just as we won’t. We take it up from those who came before us who cared and loved, and when we leave this world, those who come after us will, we hope, pick it up and carry on with the loving and caring and taking care of folks.
It reminded me of the stories I heard while in England about the ones who worked on building the great Cathedrals. A father would work his whole life and then the son would join in and then his son. Some who worked on these grand holy places never saw them to completion. Yet they put their whole hearts into doing the best job they could. And so it is.
As I listened, I found comfort. My job is to do what my friend did. Love long, hard, and every chance I get. Be a friend, a good listener, an encourager, someone who is dependable and kind, someone who laughs and can tell great stories, and someone who serves and serves and serves again. Someone who loves. She was all of these things. And much, much more.
My other job, no less important, is to raise my children to pick up the legacy of loving and to carry it on for as long as this life will let them. And so on and so on. May it ever be so.
The job of loving and caring for others is one that can never be finished, never be overdone, and never will be outdated. It will always be there, waiting for people like my friend to step up and show all of us how to love passionately with a radical hospitality and all the hugs anyone could ask for.
Tonight I’m thankful for hearing the names of those whom I have loved and had to say goodbye to this year. I carry them in my heart everyday, but today it was such a gift to be able to share their stories with others who loved them too. Their light I hold close and give thanks for, and their love is etched on my heart.
May you find someone with whom you can share the stories of those you love and miss today. Feel free to share them in the comments section if you’d like. I’d love to hear them and I’ll join you in the remembering.
Love to all.