It's a cold morning, having traded the Gulf Coast of Texas where I live, for the hills of Southern Indiana, where I spent much of my youth wandering hills and hollers. This All Saints Day seems to pull at me differently this year as I am bringing the ashes of my cousin, John D Williams, to be interned among those who have died in my family.
There is something about this day that reminds me that we are all part of something more.
Each year on this day, I find that I am focused on the memories of those who have died, who loved me unconditionally, and who now have entrusted me with their stories to tell. With John's death this year, I begin to consider my own mortality even more, since I now the oldest living member of my generation. Even now as I write this, with his box filled with ashes sit only a fee feet from me, I hear him remind me in his deep, raspy tone, "We was the first, cuz."
Two years ago as our family gathered together for a wedding, several of my cousins asked me what our great grandmother was "really like?" Their memories of her are quite different than mine.
As John D. reminded, being "first" meant she and other members of our family were much younger then. There are decades between the oldest member and youngest of my generation.
John D. and I remembered grandparents who were much different. Active with personalities and beliefs that shaped conversations, actions and behaviors.
I remember telling them of humor, joined with an amazing faith, love for people, and how sad it was to see my great grandmother change into someone else.
How hard it was to mourn them as they each died, some before cousins were even born.
All Saints Day is about our spirit. It is the reminder that even in death, we continue to remain.
Among the saints in my life are my great grandparents, many whom I knew, grandparents, one parent, a number of friends that have influenced and changed my life. This year I don't just think of John D., but also my Aunt Susie who died just a short time later, and my close friend, Andrea, who died just over a month ago. I think of so many of my hospice patients who are also now gone.
I love old photographs, including those that show my grandparents in front of the church that my grandfather pastored for many years.
My dad, just a child, along with his brothers. All of these men, now in the golden years of life, remember these photos and the people they knew.
To me, these photos are captured moments in time, that give insight into what a saint actually is. Somewhere between the photo and a life encounter, saints are sinners that seem to have found faith.
Perhaps a saint was born because they loved others and lived their life helping to make the lives of others better.
Today I am more aware of John the Baptist's words to those he met, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." The Kingdom of God surrounds us.
I am reminded of the spark of the Divine that continues to exist, even after the ashes of the creation have returned to the earth.
As I prepare to intern John D.'s ashes to the earth from which all of us were created, I can't help but wonder how I would like to be remembered. I'm not so sure that I would consider myself a saint, but I do hope that the life that I live, and those that I know, will ultimately make a difference in the lives of others. To me, that is ultimately what a saint is and does.
I am thankful for all of those people who have influenced my life, who are in many ways, saints.
Today is the realization that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and it is filled with saints.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.