The month of November always tends to evoke memories and reflections within us. The world of nature appears to be in decline all around us and, as it were, is about to fall into a deep sleep a type of hibernation as we arrive in the season of winter. The symbol of this decline are the colourful leaves on paths, walkways and roads we have been walking and indeed is some cases driving over in recent weeks. It is a time for reflection as the darker evenings gather in and the clocks have now been turned back, and we have fewer daylight hours. November is also the month that we remember our dead, our loved ones gone before us or the Holy Souls, when we pray for the dead in the firm belief that we can assist by our prayers our deceased brothers and sisters on their way to God, to the joy and peace of heaven. In writing this thought for the week I would like to remember in prayer all of you who are reading this article and let me offer my sympathy and heartfelt prayers to all of you who have experienced the lost of a loved one or a special someone or a remembrance of someone gone a long time and especially anyone recently over the last year. We carry in our memories those who have gone before us, and our dead live on in some way in a new presence in our lives. No matter how we may wish to avoid talking about death, we don’t like being reminded of our mortality. Woody Allen famously quipped, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” It strikes a chord because that is how many of us deal with death. We joke about it while keeping our real thoughts and fears to ourselves. Some of our deceased relatives we were blessed enough that we got to say goodbye too, while others left us before any goodbyes could be exchanged. By remembering our deceased in prayer or by visiting their resting place is an attempt at saying we haven’t forgotten them and that they will always be a special part of our lives. November has always had a special significance in helping us do this at the start of the winter season. We remember our loved ones gone before us, those we once knew but are now dead, and we ask God to show mercy to them and we also pray to them to help us to live out our lives as lovingly as some of them did. These faithful departed handed on to us many of the things that make life worthwhile such as insights, beliefs, culture, traditions and values. They handed on to us whatever goodness and truth they had discovered in their life even if it was for just a short time that they journeyed with us. We remember them with gratitude and real love at this time.
Be Kind to Everyone
I am convinced that grief and loss affect everyone. None of us knows how to truly process those emotions. We at times really don’t know how to grieve. We expect there to be a standard timetable for it. We don’t make space for it. We don’t feel safe talking about it. We want it to follow predictable steps and then for everything to get back to normal. The result is that we try to bury our grief, hide away our pain, and act as if it’s not there. And yet it comes up in all kinds of ways and in places we least expect. If you are truly awake in your own life, you are in touch with the loss you have experienced. And it’s no doubt painful. I have cried privately many times at situations and losses in my own life and recently on a trip to Africa I cried for days at the extreme poverty I witnessed especially for the children who were close to death. The best way to cope with it is to deal with it kindly, gently, lovingly and with the support of family, friends and the communities we live in. We should try to keep in our minds and in our hearts the knowledge that everyone deals with these feelings on a daily basis. If we truly remembered that, we would be kind to everyone. We would be gentler with our fellow human beings and with ourselves. We live in a fast-paced, tough, cold and often evil world. We don’t need to. By being more aware and awake, we can make a choice to be conscious, caring and compassionate to ourselves and others every day of the year. Now there’s a thought worth remembering.
Loss of a loved one
A sudden loss, such as the death of a family member or a close friend or colleague, makes us realize the brevity of life. We often take life for granted. Their death can make us sit down and reflect. Losing a friend recently made me take time to appreciate the loved ones in my life because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It made me put things in perspective. I want to live life and love it; I don’t want to spend my life being unhappy or dissatisfied. I want to put a smile on my face and indeed on others faces, because that’s what can make a dark day seem bright. For those who can identify with me in grief, make it your aim to try to look past it and move on. My friend is gone; I cannot bring him back, but, at least in memory of him, I can live a life that I know he would be proud of. Death opens our eyes, showing us that the only time that matters is right now. Death teaches us a simple lesson. That is, forget about yesterday, it’s over and tomorrow may never come. We haven’t seen today before, so live it as well as you possibly can. Stop putting things off. The only people who should be afraid of death are those who haven’t lived, those who say, “I’ll do it when I get around to it”, or “I will tell him or her I love him or her tomorrow.” If you don’t live today, your “tomorrows” will run out. Live life now, tell people now, when their eyes are open, “I love you.” Tomorrow it might be too late.
A little word of love during a person’s life is worth far more than all the speeches after their death. Sometimes we leave it too late and we think about the things we could have done to make someone just a little bit more happy, or cared for. I notice at times at funerals how people try to outdo one another in buying the most beautiful wreath of flowers. I often think, did these people ever think of giving the person who died beautiful flowers when they were alive so they could smell the beautiful fragrance and really cherish the gift? Here is an ancient poem about remembering that I shared recently at a friends funeral that gives me hope in times of grief, let me share it with you now.
A Poem of Remembrance
“Somewhere in the early morning of Eternity you are running free. Loosed from the bonds of Earth. Unchained from all that bound you here. The years together were too brief, yet who is to measure time? Or how long is long enough? You brought joy and whispered hope to those who loved you most. A single thread of darkness or loneliness pulled you beyond to the moment of now. We cannot fully understand nor shall we try. We simply know that somewhere in the vastness of all that is you are running free and the ocean of eternity cools your feet as you run unhampered on the sands of all tomorrow’s. And a lone seagull calls to you and you respond with laughter. You carry now, no burden, no chain nor bond to hold you. You carry only the warmth and the love of those who cared. So run free and open your arms and touch the clouds and dance with the morning sun and know that even in our tears we celebrate with you and bid you good journey, Till we meet again tomorrow. Amen.”
Thought for the week
As your thought for the week, treat everyone around you in a gentler way as much as you can and be thankful for loved ones gone before us that are no longer with us in the same presence as they were, especially during this month of November which is dedicated as a time of remembering! As one of my favourite writers John O’ Donohue wrote “live the life you would love to look back on from your deathbed”. A prayer called ‘God’s Garden’ I love to pray that gives me solace when I think of my loved one’s gone before me goes as follows, “God looked around His garden and saw an empty space. He then looked down upon the earth and saw your tired face. He put His arms around you and lifted you to rest. God’s garden must be beautiful He always takes the best. God knew you were suffering. He knew you were in pain. He knew that you would never get well on earth again. He saw the road was getting rough and the hills were hard to climb, so He closed your weary eyelids and whispered ‘peace be thine’. It broke our hearts to lose you but you did not go alone for part of us went with you the day God called you home.” Treat everyone around you in a gentler way as much as you can and be thankful for loved ones that are no longer with us in the same presence as they were, especially during this time of remembering. And as the poem,”Don’t Leave It Too Late” goes, ‘If ever you are going to love me, love me now while I know all the warm and tender feelings from real affection flow! Love me while I am living. Don’t wait till I am gone, and then chisel it on marble, warm love words on ice stone. If you have dear thoughts about me, why not whisper them to me? Surely they would make me happy and as glad as glad can be. If you wait till I am sleeping, never more to wake again. There’ll be walls of earth between us and I cannot hear you then. If you know someone were thirsting for a drink of water sweet, would you then be slow in bringing it? Would you step with laggard feet? There’s a tender heart right near you that is thirsting for your love. Why should you refuse to give it, since God sent it from above? You have flowers in your garden, some are white and some are red. Give them to me now while I am living, I can’t see them when I’m dead. I won’t need your fond caresses when the grass grows over my face. I won’t want your love and kisses in my last resting place. So if you are ever going to love me, if for just a little bit. Won’t you love me while I am living so I can treasure it?