In the Christian tradition November 1 is often observed as All Saints Day. On or around this date many believers all over the globe hold special services or perform rituals to honor those who have passed. According to the Church of England it is a time “to remember all the saints of the church, both known & unknown.”
The observances vary greatly between countries. Candles are lit, flowers and wreaths are placed near memorials or on graves, prayers are spoken. In Poland part of paying respect to deceased loved ones includes taking a portion of the the day to clean up cemeteries and family tombs. In observance of All Saints Day some churches in the United States hold special services, and during those services the names of those who have passed during the previous calendar year are spoken.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Rock Poti shared these words about All Saints Day: “All Saints Day is now a day to remember those who have glorified God with their lives. In the early church the ritual and remembrance focused on church martyrdom and saints who did not have a named feast day. Today we reflect on the witness of those who serve and further the “already but not yet ” kingdom of God in an amazing array of callings. In the beautifully simple hymn text by Lesbia Scott, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” the saints are doctors and lawyers and teachers and soldiers; they are young and old people we meet in the street, in shops and schools — of the now and of the past. The text boldly proclaims that “I mean to be one, too.” We are, and have been, a part of the wonderful continuum of God’s beloved community. To remember those who have gone before us, who have informed (and perhaps helped to transform us by being as Christ to us) is not to idolize but rather to acknowledge the gift of life and the threads that weave us together for the continued care of one another and God’s good earth. So, on November 1, we enter into a time of thanksgiving and remembrance as we celebrate –finding joy even in our sorrow of missing dear ones because we are indeed surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. We are the communion of saints, gathered in, nourished and sent out, again and again and again.”
Taking a moment to pause in thankfulness and honor the memories of those who have gone before us can be done no matter what your spiritual or religious beliefs. Rituals, no matter how simple, can be a source of healing and strength. Remembering those who have influenced us in the past and reflecting upon departed loved ones can be a grounding experience and remind us where we came from. It can be encouraging and empowering to reconnect with our roots and recall the lessons taught through the lives of those important to us. We can remember the wisdom they imparted and acknowledge the impact they had on the world.
Speaking the names of those who have passed and telling stories about their life can help keep memories of them from fading. Memorializing the dead can also have a positive effect on those who remain on this earth. It can be comforting to hold our departed loved ones close in our hearts. It can also help us feel empowered to continue conducting our own lives in a way that honors on their legacy and possibly even carries on their good works.
It is said we all die twice. The first is when our body ceases to function. The second is when our name is spoken for the last time. By taking the time to honor those who have died we can help their name, and their memory, live on. That in turn can help rejuvenate us as we continue on with this process of living. Hopefully, when our time on earth is done, we will also leave behind a life’s story worthy of remembering.
Jennifer Roberts Bittner
Funeral Celebrant/ Life Tribute Specialist
Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234
Serving the Richmond area since 1870