I love All Saints’ Day because it asks us not to look away from heartache. It invites us to remember, to speak names that cause our hearts to ache a little (or a lot), and to remember. It invites us to grieve.
I’m not sure why it is, but many of us have been taught to avoid grief. We’ve institutionalized death as something that happens in the hospital, a quiet thing that happens away from our daily lives and homes. All of us experience death and loss, but we rarely speak about them. Because we do not often share our griefs and pains with each other, many are left feeling alone, when the reality is that all of us carry burdens like these.
All Saint’s Day arrives on the liturgical calendar as permission: permission to remember both the good things and the painful, permission to speak out names of people who have transformed our lives and made us who we are, permission to pause and reflect with sorrow-tinged gratitude on the lives of those who have left an indelible mark on us. I have made a practice of inviting people on Facebook and Twitter to share names of people they are missing on All Saints’ Day. I light a candle for each person and I speak their names, and it is a holy act of remembering.
The truth is, loss is part of what it means to be human. It’s as much a part of our human story as is breathing. Anne Lamott says this in a most poignant way: “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
This All Saints’ Day. let’s not look away. Let’s dare to speak the names of people we miss (even if the most we can do is say their names with a whisper). God remembers them, too. They were and are important to God, just as you are. Below, I’m offering a brief prayer for All Saints’ Day. You are welcome to use this however it is most helpful for you.
A Prayer for All Saints’ Day
we read in the psalms that you are
“near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18).
We hold fast to this promise because we feel broken,
our spirits ache,
our grieving hearts are in need of mending.
On this All Saints’ Day,
we speak aloud the names of those we love,
and those we miss.
We say their names, and we light these candles
because we know you are near to us in our grief,
and our loved ones are also known and loved by you.
We light a candle for <name>.
Stir up in our minds beautiful memories
of <name> today.
As the flame on this candle shares warmth and light,
we ask that you would use this time of remembrance
to infuse us with the warmth of remembering and the light
of knowing we are not alone.
In the name of Jesus, who can sympathize with us
in all our weaknesses, we pray. Amen.