I can still vividly remember getting out of primary school early and going with my family to the Hamilton wharf. Berthed there was the P&O cruise ship SS Oriana , tiny by today’s standards but, seen through the eyes of a primary school kid, it was the biggest and the most fascinating thing I had ever seen. In the days before safety concerns and terrorism controlled our lives, we were all allowed on board to marvel and explore before the loud speakers echoed out the command for all visitors to go ashore.
We were going to see off my grandmother who was sailing away for 4 months on a “Women’s Weekly Round the World Holiday”. As we held onto a handful of streamers and the boat slowly moved away, I thought she was never coming back, because 4 months seemed like eternity!
Years later my grandmother would go to her bedroom and retrieve a small box containing a dozen or so small rocks. You would be arrested if you did it today, but what my grandmother did was pick up a rock from every significant place she visited and keep them as not so much a souvenir, but as a way of remembering.
As we gathered around her she would pick out a rock and say “this is from the Great Pyramid“, and then with great detail, tell us about the heat and the sand and the camels and Bedouin guides. “This is from the Parthenon” and she would describe Athens and the marble and what it was like visiting this famous, columned building overlooking such an ancient city. The gripping story of Pompeii would be told through a small piece of lava. Then she would say, “I picked this rock up at Pisa” and would proceed to paint a picture of the square, the ornate church and baptistry and then the leaning tower.
I was working in the West Indies when my grandmother died and I never found out what ever happened to that treasured little box of rocks that helped tell such great stories.
Just as the rocks helped my grandmother to remember, All Saints and All Souls help me remember her. On the eve of all Saints and all Souls, I wonder, whom do you remember?
But it is more than just remembering! With a great sense of awe and wonder at the gift of each individual life and the God-given ability to love, we name and acknowledge people who have made a profound contribution to who we are and where we have come from. We are who we are because of their example of how to live deliberately, transmitting the values, standards and vision that we identified as important. In gratitude we name them and pray for them.
Hopefully, one day we ourselves will be on the receiving end of the prayers of the Church. Our sacrifices, example, and the tenacity with which we lived out our faith will lay the foundation for those following to remember with gratitude and pray for us. Until then we celebrate this Eucharist with confidence, knowing that our lives have a divine purpose and our world has the potential to be a better place, precisely because of the God-given opportunities we are given now.
With every blessing for the start of November,