A MEDITATION FOR ALL SOULS DAY
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen in eternal.” II Corinthians 4: 17-18
“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73: 26b
A FOREVER FONDNESS – AN ETERNAL PRESENCE
I can still see him winking. Malcolm was like a father to me when I lived on the island of Kauai. He was funny, wise, open-minded and even more open-hearted. He lived a rich and beautiful life that made a difference for many. He rode a motorcycle until age 88! He always wore a Greek fisherman’s cap. There was forever a twinkle in his eye and a reassuring grin on his face. A few weeks before he died, he sent me a hand-written letter containing his funeral instructions. He concluded with: “Have fun and good luck!” and then drew a smiley face. I still smile when I think about it and when I remember him. In his hospital room, there at the end with his beloved wife Imogene, time seemed to stand still. It always does on such occasions. Just as I had experienced when sitting close to my mother as she struggled with her final breaths, there is a kind of timelessness that envelopes us in the presence of those we love as they transition to a different life. We are fully present, keenly aware of the gift of life and the love we have shared – precious memories that wash over us even as our tears fall. In those holy moments, we catch a glimpse of eternity.
Death does come. But the powerful connection shared with those who go before us does not leave. As the Burial Liturgy reminds us: Life is changed, but not ended. Things are different after death. But our relationships live on – in memories, dreams, tears, laughter, gifts, feelings, and emotions. It may be through a specific legacy left to continue their good work in this life. Or it may be experienced in the photos or mementos they leave behind. But part of them does remain with us. Their very real presence is evoked as we remember them with tender hearts and great fondness.
There is a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver titled The First Time Percy Came Back. In these lovely lines her beloved returns and reveals that life beyond is different and a joyful surprise awaits her on the other side. But what she truly desires is not revelation but intimacy – she wants simply to hold him close, as she did for so many years. Percy tells her that he misses her embrace as much as she does. Now, he assures her, she’ll be able to tell stories about his return. These tales won’t be true or false, he says, but they will be real. They will be as real as the life we shared together on this earth.
I can still see Malcolm winking at me. I can still feel my mother’s assuring embrace. I believe that our loved ones continue to reveal greater truth and call us toward a higher calling. It is from my experience as much as my faith that I know that our loved ones live on. For that is the power of a love that is real. Even death dare not diminish or defy such a force. We entrust them into the hands of our Creator, acknowledging that each of those beloved was first loved by God, created in God’s very image. So God is the strength of every heart, our Portion forever. Such is the timeless, eternal truth of a God who loves beyond time and space – whether seen or unseen – forever and ever. Amen.
Fr. William “Bill” Miller has served as Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Covington since June of 2015. He is the author of three books: “The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul,” “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God: The Whole and Holy Truth about Lager, Loving and Living,” and “The Last Howlelujah: Tails from the Trail” (released on November 10th) He lives in Covington with his beautiful (soon to be) wife Sandy and six very lucky dogs. Learn more at: www.fatherbill.net or www.facebook.com/williammillerauthor.