As a priest, one of the greatest privileges of my work is that I sometimes get to accompany folks as they make the transition from life to death. There are days like today when I spend some of my time in a hospital room, among loved ones, tear-filled eyes, and whispered prayers. I give thanks for the presence of God in those moments, and for the certainty that God gathers us all in to that place where there are many dwellings. These sacred moments always remind me of the shortness and uncertainty of life - helping me to focus on the things that really matter.
As we give thanks for those whom we love but see no longer, all the saints of generations past, the faithful ones with whom we've shared our lives, we ought to keep their example in mind. Not because any one of them was perfect - and surely, none of us are either. Only Jesus is perfect - so we can dispense with that idea right away. No, we ought to remember and keep in mind the example of their goodness. The times and places in our lives when we watched these faithful, beloved ones do the work of God. When they stocked Pantry shelves. Or prepared altar linens. When they waved at us from across the aisle - or showed kindness to someone they didn't know. And this example ought to spur us on, to make it a little sweeter for us to serve as they did - for us to live into the memory left behind by the saints who came before us.
It's easy for us, entrenched in life as we know it, to forget about the bigger picture. We get bogged down by all kinds of things - and, human beings that we are, we want what we want. We don't like change. And we like to be in control. It's too easy for us to be distracted from the things that really matter because we're so busy worrying about the things that don't. There's a mechanism of self-preservation there, too; giving ourselves the luxury of worrying about smaller things, things we think we can or should control because we're actually terrified to look at the bigger, more important things. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of the things that last - and the things that don't; that things like kindness and respect are paramount. Losing someone we love, or nearly losing someone we love, will often put these things back in perspective for us if we'll let it.
When we miss someone that we've lost, we ought to take a minute not just to remember them - but to remember their faith. To remember their faithfulness - the gifts they left behind because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. And when we do, we honor them doubly if their faith bolsters ours. If it moves us to kindness or kindles warmth in our hearts for someone else.
Like the saints who went before us, we, too, will someday make the transition from life to death. And if we're lucky, there will be stories told about us by those we leave behind, memories that visit the living from time to time long after we're gone. So let us live now as beloved children of God who love our neighbors and serve our community, putting away those things that would distract us, and honoring the memory of the saints who have gone before us.