by Catherine Maresca
This month began with a celebration of the saints of our lives, including a memorial service for my sister-in-law who passed into eternal love in August. We did this in my living room, without the structure of a funeral and burial prayers. Instead, we filled the room (and Zoom screen) with music, flowers, photos, stories and the people she loved. Memory by memory, we experienced her presence among us. We toasted her and then shared her favorite meal: tamales and tres leches cake.
While we cleaned, moved furniture, and arranged for food for this memorial, the deepest preparation was searching our memories for every scrap of her life as we knew it and choosing which to share. And in the process I realized we were surrounding grief and loss with living memories. This is the gift of a day each year (observed fully by Mexicans) to treasure the lives of our beloveds who have died. As we exchange stories and share a meal once again we affirm the gift of their life with us, and beyond us.
How appropriate that this same month holds Thanksgiving. We gather, and in the joy of being together express our gratitude for one another, for the hands that prepared the food we share, and the many, many gifts of our lives, including the memories and gifts of those who have died before us.
In the Book of Common Prayer, Episcopalians title the Eucharist, “The Great Thanksgiving.” It is a celebration that grew out of the experience of remembering Jesus, sharing a meal he loved, and gratitude for his ongoing presence among us. The ties between our observance of All Saints Day/El Dia de los Muertos and these two thanksgivings become clearer as the years pass, our memories multiply, and our gratitude as well.
May you be comforted in your grief and joyful in your thanksgiving. Join us in thanksgiving by adding to the comments below the names of saints who are dear to you.