The month of November invites us to remember all those who have died, those known to us and those unknown. It is worth considering that we celebrate All Saints and All Souls days, not in spring or summer, but in the fall when nature is letting go, life is moving inward. This is a time for harvesting, for reflection.
In taking this time for reflection, two themes emerge:
- grief, mourning those whom we have lost
- life, a renewed commitment to live the life we have now to the fullest, to go deeper, to treasure what we have because it is fleeting.
Since each relationship is unique, the loss we feel and the time it takes to assimilate it differs as well as a range of emotions that might accompany a loss. The depth of the relationship is what determines the range of emotions. It takes longer to get to the other side, meaning moving beyond the ever present sense of the loss to more attention to the life we have now. A wonderful resource that speaks of the process of grief is A Grief in Our Seasons by Rabbi Olitzky.
The second theme – that of treasuring life – is captured by this quote of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Death plucks my ear and says, ‘Live, I am coming.’” Sometimes we hear that a person has asked someone who was dying to give them some sign that there is something on the other side. But perhaps what the person who has died wants to tell us is, “Live each precious day to the full. Be grateful, observe, tend to relationships as much as possible and don’t burden the days you have by carrying baggage from the past.”
Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his poem Spring and Fall, ends by saying, “It (death) is the blight man was born for, it is Margaret you mourn for.” So as we take this month to remember all those who have graced our lives in so many ways, by revealing to us gifts we were unaware of, by being faithful companions on the journey, by bringing laughter, beauty, joy into our life or perhaps a challenge that made us grow, let us be grateful and LIVE.
“What are you going to do with this one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver The Summer Day
– Reflection by Nancy Kehoe, RSCJ
And to ponder further…
The great and sad mistake of many people is to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. They do not leave us. They remain. Where are they? In darkness? Oh no! It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes, radiant with glory, are fixed on our eyes. O infinite consolation! Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent … they are living near us, transfigured … into light, into power, into love.
– Karl Rahner
Of stepping on the shore and finding it Heaven:
Of taking hold of a hand and finding it God’s hand:
Of breathing a new air and finding it celestial air:
Of feeling invigorated and finding it immortality;
Of passing from storm and tempest to an unknown calm:
Of waking and finding it Home!
– Janet Erskine Stuart
I am not eager, bold
Or strong – all that is past.
I am ready NOT to do,
At last, at last.
– St. Peter Canisius
Those whom we love,
are no longer
where they were before.
They are now
Wherever we are.
– St. John Chrysostom