All Saints is traditionally celebrated on the Sunday following November 1st each year. Different traditions have different practices. For some it is the remembering of saints who have gone before. For some it is remembering loved ones, friends and family members who have died. Each year it is a time to light candles and remember those whom I have loved who have died.
All Saints is a circular holiday for me. It is a both / and. Remembering and being remembered. Both / and.
Today I am remembering who these saints were in my life (although they would be very uncomfortable with that description). Remembering the gifts they brought to my life, the lessons that taught, the imprint they’ve had. This is a day to remember the history that was shared. Holding close the place they held in my life, the space that only they held for me. They weathered storms with me, sticking by and sticking through events that shaped beliefs. They planted seeds that have been harvested after they have gone.
And it is a day that reminds me that they are somehow also remembering me. This is a truth for me that is impossible to logically explain. Maybe it’s a personal belief. Maybe it’s faith. All I know is that there have been times in my life when I know I am being companioned. There have been times when I’ve felt a loving presence holding onto me and in those moments I have a strong memory of a specific person.
I remember Mom when I see the wispy clouds that paint the sky. I feel Dad at the piano when I hear a recording of Errol Garner or George Shearing. I smile at Aunt Sis when I see pencils with words of encouragement stenciled. I feel Roy nodding in agreement when Linda is trying to rig some project. I give thanks for Gerald Mitchell when I hear his voice saying, “You know, Les, you could always pray…” I remember Gay when I watch the legs trickle down on the sides of a fine glass of white wine. I remember Ruth when I see a convertible driving too fast, and Jimmy when I see one driving too slow. My list goes on and on.
So on this All Saints, I invite you to light a candle, too. Take time to give thanks for those who have stood by you and stood strong for you. It’s a bittersweet day, recognizing again their loss and acknowledging with a thankful heart their ongoing presence. May this day hold grace and peace as we remember.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.