Today, 8 November, holds a special place in my heart, as I remember the birthday of my absolute best friend, Stephen Tillotson. He would have been 35 years old today, and my guess is that he would have held a highly respected career as a sports journalist for Mississippi State University. He would have been a good one too, and his voice, sarcasm, whit, and charm would have been unmatched and his brilliant knowledge of sports would have world-renown. I join his parents, brother (and his family), and extended family and friends in grieving his death and absence. But, I hope by sharing a few sentences about him, you’ll ask me more about him, and in doing so, we remember him.
The first two weeks of November are days of remembrance. On 1 November, the Church celebrates ‘All Saints’ who have died in the previous church calendar (read liturgical) and in previous years. On 11 November, in at least the U.K. and the U.S., we remember veterans. In the U.K., we remember the ending of WWI and those who have given their lives in service since then. In the U.S., we honor current veterans. (We remember those who served and now have died on Memorial Day, usually in late May)
How do we remember those who are no longer with us?
We rely on our memory to treasure them, as long as we can, but I think we also remember others by re-telling their story as often as possible. But as we age, our memory fades, and our stories may seem shorter due to loss of details. We can’t simply rely on our memory to keep someone else’s story alive, because we will forget something at some point. So, what do we do, then?
We enact habits, gestures, actions, etc. as a way of keep our loved ones memories alive. Don’t believe me? I guarantee that you do something quite often and then follow it up with, “Well that’s how so-in-so used to do [or say].” My grandfather Crabtree always said, ‘different strokes for different folks.’ I’m not exactly sure when and where he said it, but he did. My grandfather Johnson would always say, ‘Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Jews, took off his hat and peed in his shoes.’ I’m not sure why he said it, but it made me laugh. Still does. I can still remember hearing my grandmother Johnson replying to me when I innocently asked her for things, “Well, if that’s what you want.” Gratefully, my grandmother Crabtree is still alive, and I can hear her say, “I love you, too.” I’ll cherish those words, tell you about them, and in a way, their life remains in me.
What sort of phrases or actions do you say or do that remind you of someone you loved [but now has died?]
The night before Jesus died, he kind of gave his own eulogy (in a new meal the Church calls the eucharist) right after an old meal [the Passover]. It was quite simple, really. He took some bread. Gave thanks and blessed it. Broke it. Gave it to those at the table and told them exactly how to remember him, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ Take. Thank/bless. Break. Give. (Luke 22:19)
It was probably strange for Jesus’ friends to hear and see this, but it was actually what helped them remember that Jesus was/is alive even after he died. Weird, I know.
Jesus is alive and he knows you. He remembers you. You’re not too far gone. You’re not out of his gentle reach. But Jesus waits. He is patient. He is kind.
And he loves you.
I hope you’ll remember that today, and any other day, when you feel or think life is too much to carry or handle. Always remember that Jesus loves you.
How will you remember that? Maybe love someone else.
Happy remembrance days, friends. Cheers.