Sunday, November 1, 2009
Jane: All Saints Day
I lit a candle for my mom and dad at church today--it's a tradition we've always had at our church on All Saint's Sunday, to remember those who've died. Pastor Gayle said in her sermon "They are gone from our lives, and the grief may fade, but the pain never completely goes away; we still yearn for them." And it's true. I could light the candle without tears this year, but I still feel an ache in my heart when I think of Mom and Dad.
But today also had a delightful surprise--my dad was part of our Sunday School class! Bruce has been leading the classes on immigration policy and the Christian response, and one of the documents he brought in today was a piece my father wrote in 2006, arguing for fair pay for immigrant labor.
My dad was a big follower of immigration policy, which was going through some upheaval during Dad's last few years (by the way, Dad didn't think of them as his "last" few years . . . he didn't seem to have any sense of mortality). He was concerned about the way our country had one "official" policy (closed door to immigrants who didn't have official sanction) and another "actual" policy (sure, we'll hire them because they charge less). He didn't like the lie in this system, and he didn't like the way people were treated because of that lie.
This piece included Dad's research into the price of oranges in his local Tops grocery store, and what they would cost if the workers were paid fairly. He concluded that oranges would cost a bit more, but not as much as some naysayers argued. I can just picture my dad poking around the grocery store with his cane, looking at prices, and then going home to figure out the algorithms, which are written up in the piece, for the article.
I didn't know Bruce was going to bring Dad's writing to Sunday school, so it was a moment of surprise and delight when he handed it out. I was delighted not just to see something by my Dad and be reminded of him. It was also because someone else--Bruce, in this case--was remembering my Dad and something essential about him: Dad's determination to use his problem-solving abilities and writing skills to figure out and share with others what is just and true.
So for a little bit, in Sunday School, my Dad came suddenly to life--for my classmates, who got to read something he wrote, and for me because this little article brought back memories of my Dad in a full-scale rush. It made me grateful that I could to go into church later and light a candle.
It reminded me of this summer when I was at my Aunt Lois's memorial service. I loved seeing all the photos around of Aunt Lois at different stages in her life--as a girl, a teen, a young mom, a grandma. And it was cool too see all the people, many of whom I didn't know, who loved her and missed her.
But here's the strange part. When my Aunt Dee was speaking about her sister, she told a little story about Aunt Lois going and staying "with my sister-in-law's parents, the Hoffmans." That was my mom's parents, Grandma and Grandpa Hoffman. I don't remember exactly what she said about Grandma and Grandpa--it was just a kind remembrance in passing as Aunt Dee told about Aunt Lois's life. But she said something about how Grandma and Grandpa made everyone feel cherished.
Hearing Grandma and Grandpa mentioned was a total surprise to me--I think I may have even gasped. I was at a memorial for my Aunt, and I hear a word about my Grandparents, who have been dead 12 years (Grandma) and more than 30 years (Grandpa). But there it was--and it was completely true--it was exactly what made my Grandma and Grandpa so wonderful--they way they cherished those they loved.
That small remembrance brought them back to me with that same sudden rush I had today--they lived for a bit in that moment, at Aunt Lois's memorial service. And it was Aunt Dee who remembered them for me.
I don't know what "life everlasting" actually is. But I do know that moments like these can be a comfort to those of us who are still in "life here and now" and remind us of something beyond the life of the body.