In Memory–Reflections on Memorial Sunday in Pandemic Year

One of the most difficult aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic is dealing with grief. This year has brought significant loss to our lives. This is so hard, and it has been compounded by the inability to share our grief. In normal times, we gather for wakes and funerals. We hug, we cry together, we tell stories over food and drink. Social distancing keeps us from doing so many things that are necessary to make peace with grief. Instead, we mourn alone and our hearts cry out for the comforting presence of our families and friends.

In the absence of normal human contact our grief takes longer to integrate into our lives and the loss lies heavy on our hearts. We have learned, in such a sad fashion, the importance of even the simple things—stories, laughter, hugs, meals—have in helping to integrate loss into our lives. The hole that is created in our lives by death is never filled. Time doesn’t heal that wound. We need each other to learn to live in this new, emptier, life. This will take time, but it is the interactions that will make the difference. Part of this are the rituals we share to memorialize our loved ones.

Funerals are an important part of our grief process. They not only help us celebrate the life of our loved one, but also begin to open our lives to the love of friends and family that surround us all the time. It is easy to be lost in the narrow focus of grief and miss all the love that is still present in our lives. Opening our hearts to this love is an essential aspect of mourning.

This Sunday, November 1, we will hold our traditional Memorial’s Sunday on All Saint’s Day. During the worship service we will light candles in remembrance of loved ones who have passed away this year. I invite you to have a candle at home to light as I will be lighting candles in church in memory of all who are named in worship. We will then have a liturgy and prayer for them before sharing communion together. May this ritual serve to help all who are mourning an opportunity to move forward on their path of grief into their new way of being.