Remembering Those We Have Lost
We are entering a weekend for remembering those we have lost, one of the scariest weekends of a scary year.
This year in particular, many of us work hard to avoid remembering those we have lost. We would like just one day, or an afternoon, to forget this year and all the people who are no longer with us.
Many of us have not been able to get away from the steady march of death for months. We feel tired of dealing with this pandemic and all the demands it makes on us and our internal resources. The loss of so many people, day after day after day, even people we never met, weighs heavily on us.
We watch the numbers continuing to grow and the “In Memoriam” features on people lost to the virus. It is not the numbers or facts which wear us down, but the sense of loss, frustration, and hopelessness.
Remembering those we have lost does not seem to be the challenge for us. There is nowhere we can go to escape remembering them, to avoid the reminders of life as it used to be.
This weekend, our days growing darker and our air growing colder, we pause to remember.
Most years, we take time to reflect and remember the people we miss because they have left us during the last twelve months. We remind ourselves of how the communities around us are diminished when people are lost.
This is a year in which loss and death have caught us off guard in its overwhelming numbers. And we gain an extra hour.
How will we spend time for intentionally remembering those we have lost in this year marked by the loss of all those people?
A Weekend for Remembering Those We Have Lost
In liturgical churches, this is a weekend for remembering those we have lost.
Saturday is Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Hallows. All Hallows is a traditional name for All Saint’s Day, which is on Sunday this year.
Some scholars believe Halloween is rooted in a Celtic harvest festival incorporated into Christian practices. Others believe Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday, separate from other ancient festivals.
Halloween begins the observance of a time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering those we have lost. These include saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed.
This year’s changes in our typical Halloween activities help remind us it remains, in some parts of the world, a spiritual holiday. Halloween practices include worship services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead.
Sunday is All Saint’s Day. All Saint’s Day honors all the saints, known and unknown.
Some churches combine their recognition of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day, particularly when one of them is on a Sunday.
The church in which I am member has a solemn reading of a necrology, or a list of those who have died, each year. As the list is read we remember and pray for those we have lost during the past year.
Living in Southern California, the contributions of Mexican culture and spirituality have deepened and enhanced my practices of this weekend. The Mexican Day of the Dead has transformed my concept of All Soul’s Day, and the weekend in general.
We take time for remembering those we have lost and the boundaries between life and death grow less distinct. Our understanding of spiritual life and everyday life merges together.
Practices for Remembering Those We Have Lost
When I practice remembering those we have lost it helps when I begin with their names and faces. Visual reminders, like a list or a photo, help me remember. It might help to visit a cemetery.
Remembering those we have lost, though, is more than remembering their name or how they looked. I practice remembering the times we spent together, particularly times which shaped my experience.
It is like sitting with friends and remembering the experiences which built our friendships. One person will remind us of the time one thing happened, and the next will remember another time. The experiences we share are woven together to create our friendship.
Remembering those we have lost is more than simply listing names and being reminded of their faces.
This weekend is an opportunity for us to recognize and celebrate the people who have shaped our lives. We may try to avoid being reminded of the pain of losing them. Some of us tell ourselves we need to leave the past in the past.
The next few days are a way for us to remember how people have made our lives stronger and better. Some we have lost during the last six months, others were slightly longer ago.
Remembering Those We Have Lost Shapes Us
We miss the people we have lost because they are gone. It feels like it is no longer possible for them to continue shaping and inspiring us. There appears to be a distance we cannot cross.
This weekend of remembering those we have lost is an opportunity for us to be shaped by their wisdom again. We remember the love, or antagonism, which helped us become who we are. It is a way for us to pay attention to their words and presence again.
Taking time to remember allows us to reflect on our relationships and continue learning from them. We begin to see them through fresh eyes and from new perspectives.
Remembering those we have lost helps us reshape the ways we shape other people.
Our experiences, and the lessons we learn from them, can become wisdom for ourselves and for others.
Each of us will, eventually, become someone who has been lost. Our Halloween legacy will be the ways other people remember us when we are gone.
When will we take time for remembering those we have lost this weekend?
How will remembering those we have lost continue to shape us this week?
[Image by pavlinajane]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.