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Ghosts and Saints

It's an odd time of year. The seasons are in flux. The days are getting markedly shorter. We have shifted from waking up in the dark to driving home in the dark.  One day, the weather requires jackets and gloves.  The next day, you're wearing shorts and sweating in the sun.  All of this chaos seems to breed instability.  I am all but convinced that is why our collective unconscious uses this time of year to celebrate the dead.  

Does that sound morbid? 

Halloween in itself is a dichotomy between fanciful fantasy and morbid horror.  It's a day to be someone (or something) we are not. For some, that could be a kitty cat, a princess, or a cartoon character.  For others, it's a zombie or a grotesque monster.  Are we communing with the dead, scaring away the demons, or just playing make believe in an effort to escape that which we fear? 

In the Christian tradition, Halloween is followed by All Saints Day. Although technically celebrated on November 1st, the first Sunday of the month is the one reserved to remember those in the church who have passed on.  We remember those who have most recently passed (in the last year) but we also remember any who have gone before us. We remember those who are closest to our hearts but we also remember the soul of the collective church community.  

It is important to remember.  Our greatest fear in mourning a loved one who is gone is that we will forget.  We want to remember everything: the timbre of their voice; the things that they said; the moments we shared. The danger in remembering is that it can sometimes make us feel sad. Those moments are simply memories. As such, they cannot be made again.  During the homily at Westover Hills UMC on Sunday, Pastor Donna said something very profound: "When grief comes to visit, she rarely tells us how long she plans to stay."

That cycle of grief can be as fleeting as a butterfly.  It's a moment or a twinge. Sometimes it's over even before it started.  But sometimes, it's as lumbering and prolonged as a steam engine, barreling through our day-to-day and squashing everything in sight.  Roger calls it "the bus".  When the bus parks itself, it takes a lot to get it moving again.  

As the seasons change, I find myself more conscious of the darkness that can creep in. Like the candles that stand as symbols in so many of our winter holidays, the memories of our loved ones can burn as flickering reminders.  They give warmth and light in a time of darkness. But they can also burn. They are easily extinguished.  One flickering candle can both give and destroy.  

So it is with our memories.  We remember our ghosts. We honor our saints. We light a candle to crush the darkness and warm our hearts. We light a candle so that we always remember.  

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