Reflections on All Saints/All Souls

WARNING: The following post contains thoughts about theology, spirituality, and the nature of existence. If reading these thoughts will compel you to let me know how wrong, evil, foolish, etc. I am, kindly skip this one.

Today, my church observed All Saints’ Day, a day in which not only “big S” Saints are remembered, but also the members of the faith community who have passed on in the last year.

There’s a story in (I think) Tuesdays with Morrie about a little wave in the ocean, freaking out as he hurtles towards shore and, presumably, oblivion. “You don’t get it,” another wave tells him. “You’re not a wave; you’re part of the ocean.”

That seems to me as good a way as any to think about death, despite the story’s footprints-in-the-sand cuteness and “gotcha” punchline. If I’m honest, the idea of being part of the ocean is a comfort, mostly because I’ve always had a hard time with a lot of the popular “what happens when you die” ideas. We know (although we don’t like to think about) what happens to dead bodies, but nobody seems to agree on what, if anything, happens to the other parts of ourselves. I started thinking, “Well, what might happen?” After a minute I wrote the following:

In the same way that every atom in my body is only mine on loan from the universe, so too is every intangible gift only mine temporarily — and when I am gone, they will be picked up and passed to others. I am a stone, a blade of grass, a breath of wind, a drop of rain. Is it so strange to hope I might one day be a creative flash, a stroke of genius, a line of poetry, a measure of music? Am I gone forever? No more than the water in a cloud. Once, I was rain; have no fear — no matter how long the drought, I shall fall again.

If you are currently mourning the loss of a good part of your life (no matter what or who it may be), I hope you will look for the ways in which it persists. It goes on, so long as you do. And then it keeps going on.