This isn’t a comfortable title for a holiday, for many of us. A sense of conditioning in our society exists: to present our best selves, a self that isn’t sad or holding on to grief too tightly. It’s also difficult and weird to talk about our dead. We even hesitate to say someone “died” instead preferring the softer version “passed away.” What happens if we step into a less comfortable area of talking, acknowledging, and even celebrating our dead?
Our Young Adult Advisors gathered last week, on the Day of the Dead, also called All Saints Day, and shared a meal. We talked about our favorite and least favorite Halloween costumes, things we needed, and things for which we were grateful. We also talked about people we have lost. We discussed who we would honor on this day of remembrance and what item or image we would bring to the All Saints Day altar. Our dead cannot be reduced to objects or images but they can be remembered through these things. I lost my mom over 7 years ago and I still have things of hers that take me back to her presence. It was beautiful to be in a space that honored that sadness and, in doing so, honored her memory. For my object, I picked a picture of my mom with me and my brother. We are at a Texas Tech football game together and look incredibly happy. I treasure this moment and that time we spent together. My second object felt slightly more raw because it was so new. My friend, mentor, and former colleague, Blair Monie, died from pancreatic cancer two days before All Saints Day and our communal dinner. He was instrumental in my life and in my call to ministry. Blair was the longtime pastor of the church I where I worked before coming to seminary, and he would give the same Benediction every Sunday. Several of us had it memorized and we would talk about it often with our youth. We even made magnets with the words of Blair’s benediction and a splash of watercolor paint. This magnet came with me to seminary and is currently on our fridge. It serves as a reminder to me of Blair’s words and deeds and how he so faithfully lived his life.
Remembering is powerful and so is sharing with others. Why should we embark on these painful journeys of memory and loss? They help us understand each other better! I think they also help us love each other better. Young adults long for authentic spaces and part of that authenticity means leaning into these tender, raw moments and learning from them together. That night, we created a sacred space together, where silence was comfortable, pain was acknowledged, and healing and beauty emerged. I invite you to lean into this space, creating more authentic moments together, moments in which we can lower our masks and learn to love each other better.
As you leave this place
may the Living Lord go with you;
Behind you, to encourage you,
beside you, to befriend you in obedient ministry,
above you, to watch over you,
beneath you, to lift you from your sorrows,
within you, to give you the gifts of faith, hope, and love,
and always before you, to show you the way. Amen.