This Sunday brings us to the end of the church year. We will light candles in memory of loved ones who have died. We will acknowledge that their memories still shape and bless us. Like this dead old tree which still feeds the woodpeckers, memories of our deceased loved ones linger with us, and feed our souls long after we take our leave from them at their funeral.
This afternoon I attended a very sad funeral. A young man who battled mental illness, succumbed to the disease. I attended in solidarity with a member of his extended family. The family celebrated his life with songs like U2’s “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, the Holly’s “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” and Elvis’s “Peace in the Valley.” They shared thoughts like, “the love we shared will bind us together forever.” It seems that his family is finding ways of being blessed by his legacy. I hope and pray so.
Cheryl Bear has a haunting song about suicide; That Cold Day. Her introduction to the song describes dealing with suicide as ‘the most difficult thing any person can deal with because we always wonder if there was something we could have done and our guilt adds to our grief.’
How can we stand in solidarity with those who know this pain as they remember those who have died other violent deaths? Here’s one possibility.
Three years ago a young Indigenous man in my city, decided to take a courageous stand of solidarity with those who live in violence and know of many lives snuffed out too soon. Michael Champagne invited others who were as sick of this unnecessary violence and death as he was to join him for an hour’s vigil on one of Winnipeg’s most violent street corners. Every Friday since then, throughout all of Winterpeg’s frigid temperatures, there has been a vigil against violence at Meet me at the Bell Tower.
At a recent church educational day Michael said the best thing those Winnipegers who live more comfortable and peaceful lives can do, is to come and stand with them at the Bell Tower on Friday nights. The youth from my congregation will be there this Friday night to help celebrate its third anniversary. So will some of us who were young a while ago. We will light candles against the darkness.
As we gather for Memorial Sunday we will bring our memories of this experience into worship. A few of us will also bring the memory of today’s funeral. As we light our candles, and include those who have died from violent causes, my prayer is that we will also be lighting candles of hope and faith in the Light that shines in world and has not been overcome by its darkness.