Honoring Our Loved Ones: A Nod to All Saint’s Day

It is by God’s grace we are claimed and given the promise of the resurrection.

October 28, 2020
Alissa Gunning, Certified Spiritual Director

If there is one thing I’m comfortable with, it’s death. I often “joke” that I’ve been to more funerals than baby showers. Well, if it weren’t true it would be a joke. But I don’t say this in jest or out of disrespect, it just happens to be a truth of my life. Granted, I’m not in my golden years, but you may be thinking, “Um, this person needs some younger friends!” 

To use a current example, two years ago, between August and January, nine people I knew died within that six-month time period. That year was quite hard and I chose to go back to therapy to help me process all of those losses, in addition to attending my regular, monthly spiritual direction sessions. Only two of the nine were older than I was at the time. Over the past two months, three people I know have died. Two were my age exactly and the other one was only slightly older. Some of these deaths were expected; most were not. And there were deaths that occurred in between; but, not as many and not in such a short time. When loss happens so quickly, it can be hard to process.  

“Imagine with me a world where we gather around each other in death the way we do in birth. What would it mean to honor the departed with those left behind the way we honor those near the newborn?”

alissa Gunning

People each have their own experience around the death of loved ones and grieve in different ways. But, we all know the deal, right? None of us is immortal. Our birth ensures our death. It’s a part of the circle of life. So, why is death still such a hush hush topic? Why are we afraid of those who are grieving? Do we think that if we don’t talk about it, it won’t happen to us? That we are immune? Is it like Beetlejuice – if we talk about it too much it will make it happen, or summon a curse on our loved ones? Or maybe deep, deep down we don’t really believe the resurrection is true for us? I know a big part of it is we’ll miss our loved ones when they’re gone – each person leaves a hole in our daily lives – and even though their memories are always with us, it really isn’t the same. 

Imagine with me a world where we gather around each other in death the way we do in birth. What would it mean to honor the departed with those left behind the way we honor those near the newborn? As Lutherans, one way we gather around each other and honor those who have gone before us is All Saint’s Day, which is this coming Sunday. 

In his 10/29/18 article in the Living Lutheran (https://www.livinglutheran.org/2018/10/all-saints-day/), Benjamin M. Stewart writes of All Saint’s Day, “All are saved by grace. The festival originally honored those who were considered especially holy: heroic figures from the Scriptures and martyrs who had given their lives nonviolently in witness to the faith. However, it is an especially Lutheran accent for the feast to honor not only those who lived exemplary lives, but all who have been baptized into Christ’s death. For Lutherans, All Saints resonates with the conviction that in Christ every saint is a sinner and every sinner a saint, simul justus et peccator. Lutherans especially remember on this feast that it is God’s grace, apart from our works, that makes us saints. We find lasting rest only in the mercy of God.”

So, whether your loved one led a holy, exemplary life, or not, I would encourage you to take some time to honor your loved ones who have died. Whether you: 

  • note the anniversary of their death on your calendar as one of my Aunt’s used to do
  • light a candle
  • commission a painting of your favorite picture of them 
  • “cheers” a drink with family on the anniversary of their death 
  • put flowers or a token on their grave 
  • name a bench
  • put their picture in a prominent place in your home or wallet 
  • plant a tree 
  • send a donation in their name 
  • create a foundation or charity in their memory 
  • or just talk about them.

Get creative and take a moment to think of your loved one. Find a way to honor them that helps with your healing. May all your departed loved ones rest in peace.

Alissa Gunning, Certified Spiritual Director

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