A pastor reflects on All Saints Day




Editor’s Note: The following is a reflection and poem by Jan Richardson commemorating All Saints Day. Jan is an artist, writer and ordained minister in The United Methodist Church. She makes her home in Central Florida and frequently collaborated with her husband, the singer-songwriter Garrison Doles, until his sudden death in December 2013. 

One of the things I quickly learned after Gary died was that death has a way of tearing open our hearts toward eternity. We are no longer residents of this world only; we no longer move only in this time. It is one of the strange and beautiful effects of intense loss. Even as I continue to make a new life in this world, I am keenly aware that my heart is held by one who lives beyond this world. And that means my heart lives both within and beyond the borders of what I can see and know in this world.

It is All Saints’ Day, and I am thinking about how this is a day to name this—how we live in these two worlds. Except that it’s not really two worlds. Somehow, now and eternity are bound together in a deep mystery. This is a day to remember that even in the pain of sharpest loss, somehow we all live in one world, and death does not release us from being in relationship with one another.

This is a blessing about that. On this All Saints’ Day, as we both grieve and celebrate our beloved dead, may we know how they endure with us, holding our hearts and encompassing us with a fierce and stubborn love that persists across time and distance.

ENDURING BLESSING

What I really want to tell you
is to just lay this blessing
on your forehead,
on your heart;
let it rest
in the palm of your hand,
because there is hardly anything
this blessing could say,
any word it could offer
to fill the hollow.

Let this blessing
work its way
into you
with its lines
that hold nearly
unspeakable lament.

Let this blessing
settle into you
with its hope
more ancient
than knowing.

Hear how this blessing
has not come alone—
how it echoes with
the voices of those
who accompany you,
who attend you in every moment,
who continually whisper
this blessing to you.

Hear how they
do not cease
to walk with you,
even when the dark
is deepest.

Hear how they
encompass you always—
breathing this blessing to you,
bearing this blessing to you
still.

—Jan Richardson
from “The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief”
janrichardson.com

Image (Top): "A Gathering of Spirits," copyright Jan Richardson

Editor’s Note: Jan Richardson also serves as director of The Wellspring Studio, LLC, and travels widely as a retreat leader and conference speaker. Known for her distinctive intertwining of word and image, Jan’s work has attracted an international audience drawn to the welcoming and imaginative spaces that she creates in her books, online blogs and public events.

A native Floridian several generations over, Jan grew up in Evinston, a small community near the university town of Gainesville. The rural landscape, community traditions and lifelong relationships fostered a rich sense of place, imagination and ritual that continue to shape Jan's life and infuse her work.
 



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