How Do You Remember Them?

How Do You Remember Them?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Do you celebrate All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Soul’s Day (Nov. 2)?

Even though some think only the canonized are ‘saints’, the Bible recognizes all Christians as ‘saints.’ We remember the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in the faith, stretching across the centuries and around the globe.

“However hard it might seem to follow the way of Jesus in our own time and place, this is a day to remember that we may be crazy, but we are not alone.” (Common Prayer for Nov. 1st)

  • Recently I visited the grave of a woman I never met. I helped my son and husband plant flowers and we sang together the hymn inscribed on Inka’s tombstone “Thine is the Glory.” Except for our voices, it was strangely quiet in this small Dutch village churchyard as we dug and stood vigil. A grace gift of both joy and solemnity.
  • Before my youngest daughter married her husband, we stood in a Texas memorial garden honoring his father, and prayed with thanksgiving for Tom’s life and our children who had come together to carry on his name and legacy.
  • And when I visit my Georgia family, I occasionally kneel at the grave of my childhood friend Cax and chat about growing older without her. Sometimes I leave little gifts, like the Barbie Christmas ornament that reminds me of so many little girl dreams – ones that she decided on her own would never come true.

Graves and tombstones are tangible memorials to someone’s life. As believers we know they aren’t actually there, in the ground or the vault. But these places provide a touchstone of remembering who they were and how they changed our lives.

“How often do we go to the cemetery and stand, kneel or sit in front of the place where our spouse, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or friends have been buried? Are we still in touch with those who have died, or are we living our lives as if those who lived before us never really existed? (Henri Nouwen)

How do you remember the life of a loved one who has died?

Perhaps you keep a possession of theirs, a recording, or a letter. Maybe you donate to a cause or ministry they were passionate about, or establish a scholarship to encourage students their field.

“What a gift it is to know deeply that we are all brothers and sisters in one human family and that, different as our cultures, languages, religions, life-styles, or work may be, we are all mortal beings called to surrender our lives into the hands of a loving God. What a gift it is to feel connected with the many who have died and to discover the joy and peace that flow from that connectedness.” (Henri Nouwen)

Because they lived, we are different.

So…. if you, like me, find yourself teary occasionally as you trudge this journey of faith and fortitude, seeking to persevere amidst all that says give up, then remember those words, “we may be crazy, but we are not alone!”  

What will others remember most about you? That you were kind, encouraging, helpful, funny? Or that you were always too busy? I urge you to live each day as though everything you do, everything you say and everyone you encounter builds the kingdom. Because it does. You don’t have to worry about memorials. Just live.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

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“Almighty God, with Whom still live the spirits of those who die in the Lord, and with Whom the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity: I give You heartfelt thanks for the good examples of all Your servants, who, having finished their course in faith, now find rest and refreshment. May I, with all who have died in the true faith of Your Holy Name, have perfect fulfillment and bliss in Your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.” (Divine Hours)

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4 Responses to How Do You Remember Them?

  1. Jane Rattray says:

    Thank you for this encouraging word today. Last weekend my husband and I attended the funeral of a friend taken unexpectedly and this Saturday we will attend the funeral of a beloved Aunt who lived a long, full life. Both are hard and both remind me of the truth you shared today. Each day I get to choose how I will invest my life into the legacy I wish to leave behind. I praise God for the hope we have of eternal life with those we love who are His saints.

  2. kimwilbanks says:

    There is one large cemetery outside of my town. Whenever I attend a funeral, I always go and visit my grandfather’s gravesite. He was very special to me and is the one responsible for leading me to the Lord. On the day of his funeral, there was an ornamental white dove in the floral arrangement on top of his casket. Later that day, when we went back to the cemetery to gather some of the plants, I took the dove (with my grandmother’s permission). Every year, since 1984, the white dove has a place of honor at the top of my Christmas tree!

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