As many of you are aware, today is All Saints’ Day. It is a time to remember those who have passed on during the year.
I had the honor of being a part of a rather large funeral today in which a faithful servant was celebrated. As friends eulogized, voices cracked and tears fell, but I noticed that as quickly as Kleenex’s were snatched up, smiles also swept across faces. It made me think about how grief, in its simplest form, is a reaction to loss. This reaction, however, is a process.
Popular psychology will tell you that grief has stages. Elisabeth Kubler Ross even goes so far to define these stages as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In reality, these stages aren’t really stages in the way we think of stages. There is no set order, there are no set time-frames. We go back and forth, around and around, drifting in and out of our own sense of consciousness. We tell, we re-tell, we ‘re-member.’
It all brings us to a part of ourselves we wouldn’t get to otherwise.
Grief over life, grief over death.
We give each other grief. We grieve for and with one another.
We are taken aback by it.
We all somehow grieve differently and yet we all grieve the same.
Oftentimes, our minds process our stories in pieces. We end up telling and retelling our experiences in an effort to fully grasp them. Our words take on a rote tone, one that Thomas Lynch describes as prayer-like.
It’s a funny thing, our rememberings. Our words. Our prayers–even the ones that don’t have words. Our grief ages our souls as it brings us to our knees. It shows up in the daily things–in getting the paper and in the breaking of bread. Our comings and our goings–it all becomes more holy. Our daily bread becomes a perpetual communion and sleep is an answered prayer. Life becomes fractional; bits and pieces exist in a type of suspension, but not as a whole.
Our grief, however, is not the end. We can take comfort in the fact that a new world will one day be revealed, a world where death shall be no more. As Revelation 21 says, “neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I will leave you with the words of the hymn, When the Saints Go Marching In.
We are trav’ling in the footsteps
Of those who’ve gone before,
And we’ll all be reunited,
On a new and sunlit shore…
Some say this world of trouble,
Is the only one we need,
But I’m waiting for that morning,
When the new world is revealed…
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in!