All Saints’ Day. All Souls’ Day. All Hallows’ Eve. The Day of the Dead. Our various celebrations this week remind us of a truth that is at the core of so many of our religious and cultural traditions.
Death can’t separate us from love. Those who love us are with us always. They’re near, dear, and not-so-departed. They remain an intimate and important part of our daily journey of becoming more loving people and building a more just society together.
We’re reminded that death isn’t about destruction; it’s a moment of holy transformation that takes us even deeper into life. We trade our heartbeat for a deeper place in the heart of God who is love, a heart that remains active and involved in our world.
Those who die remain part of our lives, available for more love, inspiration and relationship. That’s been the message all along.
Wrapped snugly around us
The gospels share a story of Jesus receiving a visit from two dead people – Moses and Elijah – to talk about his ministry. There are other accounts of dead people contacting the living. The resurrection stories remind us that death can’t break our connection to Jesus’ embodied spirit of love – he is with us always.
Over the centuries, the church has recognized and celebrated the “communion of saints” – we’re still in intimate union with those who have died. Some traditions encourage seeking their wisdom and guidance.
Various faiths and cultures throughout human history have drawn us to this truth in their own ways. Even our pop culture recognizes it. Star Wars and Harry Potter depict family and friends remaining active in our lives, giving us their presence and direction. Paul McCartney wrote a song about his departed mother – Mary – coming to him in a dream with words of wisdom.
Many people have their own stories of a loved one appearing in a dream or some other form at important times in their lives, bringing comfort or guidance. It’s universal across generations, religions and cultures.
There’s something there, even though we can’t wrap our limited brains and our limited experiences around it. We think in three-dimensional ways, but there are other dimensions at work. Faith encourages us to recognize the spiritual dimension which is intimately bound with all.
Or, to put it another way: Creation is all one thing, like a giant blanket. There are many threads on the blanket, all woven tightly together. When someone dies, they move from one thread to an adjacent one, but they’re still wrapped snugly around us, and not just in some metaphorical way,
Their paths and ours continue to overlap. We still travel together.
This can be a great comfort when we ache for their touch and experience the pain of missing their voice, their laugh, their reassurance that we are loved and never alone. We can quiet our minds and go deeper inside our hearts and hear them again.
We still travel together
It’s also a reassurance in our daily struggle to bring love and justice more deeply into our world. Our spiritual ancestors who struggled before us – who dedicated their lives to equality for all God’s children – are still participating in the struggle with us. Death doesn’t end our involvement in the movement; it merely transforms it.
We can take reassurance and courage from knowing that those loving and prophetic people still march with us, work with us, guide us and lead us. And when each of us moves on, we will remain part of the struggle, too.
As Paul puts it, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s powerful love, not even death itself. I’d say the same thing about those who love deeply. Nothing can separate us from their love, either.
Certainly nothing as small as death.