Today, I served communion to a man with tears in his eyes. His father, though no longer with us, was present on this day. The Spirit was present. You could feel it in the space.
All Saints is one of those high holy days where the pomp and liturgy and tradition matters. Being a newbie in this congregation, I must admit I was nervous and anxious about doing justice to the way this particular community remembered their dead. I did not know most of those we named. I couldn’t tell you their story. So I told one of my own.
Though our experiences of loss are vastly different, there are common threads and moments. The experience of a long struggle. Whispers at the bedside. Caring for others instead of ourselves. The unexpected moments when we break down.
Today, I shared my experience surrounding my grandfather’s death. My Deda. We cracked walnuts together. We baked apple pies. He said few words, but knew how to make you smile. He was always faithfully hoeing weeds in the garden or field. A honey butter sandwich was the best thing in the world. I remember his stories about peeling potatoes in Korea. How he always said “spank you” instead of “thank you” with a twinkle in his eye. And how he could get all kinds of worked up if the right topic came along.
When I think about him, I realize in part how little we have in common. He was a person of few words. He made do on next to nothing. He worked with his hands and back almost every day of his life. Yet it is precisely because we are so different that I can appreciate all he had to teach me. Thinking of him makes me take a deep breath and slow down and listen more. It makes me pause to think of all that could be and should be. I wonder how life would be different if he had been with us longer. I want to eat a fried egg on a single slice of bread at breakfast with him once again. I wonder what he would have thought of his granddaughter the pastor.
When we celebrate All Saints, we remember that those who are gone are not gone forever. They continue to be with us… guiding us, encouraging us. I didn’t know much of Deda’s life of faith or relationship with God, but every time I plant something or pull a weed, he is with me. And today when we broke bread at communion and I thought of the farmers who had harvested the grain, I sensed his presence.
It is strange and wonderful how our lives and souls entwine. And I thank God for the promise and hope of the resurrection and the reminder that our differences dead are never truly gone.