A service to remember
From St Paul's Holme Eden and Holy Trinity Wetheral
A talk from an All Souls service in church (audio)
Graeme Skinner (12 minutes) on lighting a candle in memory of a loved one.
Holding grief and gratitude together.
'A service of candles: Remembering those we have lost.'
A candle… is it just wax and wick or more? In the ancient days it was used; to light a room; to show the way or even measure time. A candle was Functional. Today… it is more decorative or meaningful. It becomes a representation of love. This candle is Relational
We have a special candle we light in our living room to remember our son Jim, who died 5,107 days ago, aged 7,644 days old. But what is time to loss? We measure not the number of days, but by the depth of love. Time doesn’t make the loss any less, it simply helps us to grow into a new part of our life – with some increased wisdom and capacity.
We never ever lose the effect our loved one has left on our lives. Each of us here today has lost someone who was important to us, even integral to us. That person has influenced and shaped your life, maybe even given you life. When one of my own children died, another one said ‘I am who I am today because of Jim’. He had shared a room with him for 18 years of his life; they had shared stories, faced trials and childhood adventures together... in reality or imagination.
You are who you are today because of your relationship with your loved one who is no longer here to be touched, but I would say that in one way she or he is here now
because of your relationship with them, you also carry the imprint of that special person wherever you go. In a mysterious way – you keep them alive as you carry them because they had made you who you are. Death takes away so much but cannot take away the imprint of love. Her or his love for you and yours for them. That is what endures.
The symbolic candles that will be lit in a while are an expression of that. It is a symbol, a representation of something, a Re–Presentation. Presenting your love again. That act brings together, in a deeply profound way, both grief and gratitude.
Grief.... for bereavement can be a heart wrenching loss. A relationship that has slipped beyond your senses, sight, sound, touch small and taste. Gratitude for who you have known. A relationship that has left an imprint on you.
CS Lewis, the author, met Joy Gresham and developed a close relationship with her. He knew that on marrying her in response to love that he was embracing both joy and the potential for Loss. He wrote two books ‘Surprised by Joy’ after he married her and ‘A Grief Observed’ after Joy died. That’s Joy and Loss. The two go hand in hand. This is what happens when you love. To love is to be vulnerable. Open to being wounded. That’s what vulnerable means. However, I would rather have known and loved than not known... The pain comes from the love. So I often think I want to keep that pain as it links me to the love. I will not have the world move me on...
Bereavement penetrates to the core of who I am... and my love and pain are wedded together. One can even be an imprint of the other. We cannot change the loss – it has happened. But we can change, over time, the way we respond to the loss. Bereavement changes who we are on the inside and in the way we see the world.
The hope written about in the Bible has been an enormous comfort and guide for me. Mind you It doesn’t tidy away the struggles, rather it names and acknowledges them. We read in Psalm 23 of ‘The Valley of the Shadow of death’. It is a real place. The scriptures not only allow us, but seem to encourage us, to ask the questions, Why? How? What? Who?
In Revelation chapter 21, describing the future time, we hear that one day death will be swallowed up forever and Tears will be wiped away. But for now, we wait and live as best we can, carrying the imprint of our loved ones as a memorial and celebration of who they were … and still are in you. One day we will sit at a banquet as mentioned in Psalm 23, a prepared table.
So when we consider the imprint that love has left on us, let us, in a way that is true to who we are, with integrity and gratitude, celebrate the person we have known and loved, who has helps us to become who we are. As we symbolically re- present them with a candle today to bring light to our personal world and show us the way ahead as we measure our time here on earth. This candle is a representation of our love. We thank God for the gift they are to us.