Having visited parts of Southeast Asia this year and seen the family altars with which Asian families honor their deceased loved ones, I am perhaps more keenly aware that the practice of honoring those we love who have left us in this life is a practice worth thinking about. While most of us may not engage in ancestral worship or the veneration of saints, I do think there is something to be gained through the remembrance and appreciation of those who have died.
I spent some of the day yesterday, All Saints Day, reflecting on the “saints” in my life - both those I have personally known and those I have not. Perhaps the biggest saint in my life is my grandmother, Vera. Mamaw is what we call her. Mamaw lived right next door to me growing up, and so she was instrumental in raising me and my siblings. She was the one who had goodies for us to eat, popped us popcorn (the old-fashioned way), and made perfect peanut brittle. Mamaw was also the person who allowed me to read to her when I learned to read and just couldn’t get enough of it. And she was the one who picked me up after school when I had a million things going on and needed to stay later. More importantly, Mamaw was a strong Christian presence in my life. I witnessed her involvement in her church as she taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, and was an active participant in the ladies group. When I began to minister and preach, Mamaw was the only elder in my family who supported me in that and came to hear me preach when she could.
It occurs to me that we don’t always realize the impact of saints like Mamaw until we take the time to remember them - how they lived and what they did for us and others. The writer of Hebrews, in remembering and listing the ancestors of the Hebraic faith, challenges believers to “run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.” (Hebrews 12:1, CEB) I am grateful to have my Mamaw among those in my own cloud of witnesses, and as I strive to continue in this “race” as it were, I know that the best way to honor her and the numerous other saints in my life is to live my own life according to the values they have instilled in me.
Who has touched your life? And how will you remember and honor them - not just on All Saints Day, but EVERY day?