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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

Love & Remembering

November is a month for remembering. All around us people are wearing poppies, a symbol that we remember the lives of those lost in war. But today, we come, possibly with some trepidation, to remember quietly those whom we have loved and who have died recently. It isn’t easy to remember, when remembering brings back the pain of our loss. It isn’t easy to remember when the relationship we shared had its difficulties or when we feel that there were things we wanted to do or say but didn’t get the chance. Sometimes remembering is the last thing that we want to do or are able to do…

The Christian faith has a strong tradition of remembering. As Jesus approached his own death, we’re told that he shared a simple meal with his friends. He urged them to remember him every time they break bread or drink together. He knew that he was going to die but he wanted his friends to know that he would never leave them.

Jesus invited his friends to remember him every time they ate bread or drank wine – an act of remembrance associated with life and all that lies ahead, not simply what lies behind us. I know that for many of us there will be times of day or simple acts that remind us of the person we have lost – it may be as we close the curtains at the end of the day or boil the kettle to make a cup of tea – that we say goodnight or good morning to the one we still love. Sometimes the act of remembering will trip us up as we seem to forget what has happened, at other times the act of remembering is our greatest comfort and strength.

In the poem Tomb, Ann Lewin writes of how, as we work through our grief, our “memory recovers its perspective.” We don’t just remember them as a saint, but we start to remember the way they got on our nerves or the things that drove us mad – or at least the potential for that to happen.

As we begin to remember the things that made us laugh and the things that made us cross, the things that made us proud and the ways they could embarrass us, it’s as though the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are coming back together again…

When we lose someone dear to us, it’s as though a jigsaw puzzle has been thrown up into the air and all the pieces have been scattered far and wide. As we remember, the pieces start to come together – only the picture isn’t quite the same. We have to look closely at what is emerging, but there, in the new picture, is the possibility that we can still love the one we have lost and that the life we did share with them has made a difference to the people we are now.

Ann’s poem talks of how “letting the dead one go… opens the way to finding again…” It is a paradox and for some of us it may take many years to reach beyond the “aching sense of loss” but every time we remember we gather some of the fragments together and the new picture starts to get clearer.

It takes courage to remember. Take courage from Paul’s words that absolutely nothing, not even our grief, can separate up from the love that we have shared with those we have lost – love is stronger than death and love is of God.

Memories don’t just connect us with the past, you see, memories are also what connect us with the future, with hope and new life. As we remember, as the fragments start to come together and we see new possibilities emerging, may we become ever more aware of the bond of love that cannot be broken and, in time, may we become familiar with that place where we can “keep company unseen” even, perhaps, sharing again the intimate glance of a love that cannot be overcome.

Every year this day we remember before God our departed friends and family because we love them. In this life we received love from them, and we loved them in return. And that loving does not finish or die with the grave. If it did there’d be no point in being here tonight. Your presence is proof of the fact that the reality of love continues beyond death into eternity.

What does that tell us about the teaching of the Christian faith regarding death? It tells us that this Love must have come from somewhere. It isn’t just a psychologically induced emotion. It isn’t just a mental state of elation or well-being.

No, if we love, then our love has to have come from somewhere – and the Christian faith says it comes from God. Not only did God love us by creating us, but he gave his only Son to die and rise so that we might have eternal life.

The core teaching of Christianity is that God revealed himself to humanity in his Son, Jesus. But Jesus wasn’t just a means of divine communication with humanity. No Jesus is more than that. He is the gift of God himself. The gift of new life and our point of reconciliation with the Father. Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead so that our sins might be forgiven, and death be defeated for ever.

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