An All Hallow's Eve Homily
As we in this household ready the candy anticipating night visits by wee ghosties and ghoulies, I recall that Halloween is our culture's time to stick our tongues out at death, and even make fun of it. Of course, death gets the last laugh.
Or so it seems. It is not for nothing that the Risen Christ is first encountered by the women in a cemetery.
Still, death is real. And even when we stick our tongue out, it has the way of leering back at us when we least expect it. Here is an essay by Jana Riess of Religion News Service that reminded me of our need to "grieve well".
"I had a wee breakdown in a big-box store yesterday.
"This was not the heaving sobs of a year and a half ago, when I felt so bereft after my mother’s death it sometimes manifested as a sharp physical pain whenever something reminded me of her.
"Which was all the time.
"No, this grief was quieter but more surprising. It was all so mundane. When I was placing an order at Lowe’s, the clerk found me in the computer from the last time I had placed an order at Lowe’s – which was when our family was fixing up Mom’s house to put it on the market.
"So there on the screen was the contact information that Lowe’s had on file for me, which was all my mother’s. Mom’s street address. Mom’s phone number. Mom Mom Mom.
"I had to turn away so that the clerk wouldn’t be alarmed that his formerly normal-seeming customer suddenly looked ready to weep buckets.
"These episodes don’t happen very often anymore, more than a year and a half after losing Mom. I can have whole conversations about her now without visibly losing it. But the grief is always there, gently submerged, biding its time. Sometimes it lashes out unexpectedly, a sudden onslaught of memories making it difficult to breathe."Halloween is also the precursor to our culture's Great Winter Festival--you know, the one that runs from the Macy's Parade through the Super Bowl. So for many people in our lives, as well in our congregation, this is when deep loss and memory will jump out at us and shout "Boo!" as we pass by holidays, gatherings, music, worship and all the other hallmarks that remind us of people and moments long past. Sometimes that encounter, as in the one at Lowe's, will bring us to our knees.
I think St. Francis' had it right when he describes "gentle death" as our companion; and the prayer book, too, which describes death as a gateway. So when we walk with our companions in their grief, or as we dress up in our comical defiance of death, we followers of Jesus are not whistling past the graveyard. Instead we are sharing a knowing nod between life's constant companions in the company of the risen Christ.
Take an on-line class "Grieving Well" on ChurchNext here.