May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will leave the world a little better for your having been here. -- Ronald Reagan

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thoughts on Halloween, All Saints Day and Passing From This Life

All Souls Day Vestment

Halloween has passed, and today we celebrate "All Saints Day". Halloween Day many at work had come in costume. I was asked why I didn't participate. My reply was I have issues with it. (My other reply is that my dress shirt and slacks is my costume of a Conservative and Christian zealot.) At one time it was a costume party for kids, and we went to the streets in safe neighborhoods where neighbors were known and had the same values as us. It was an innocent celebration of the scary and spooky, an indirect recognition of the dead. Now it's a celebration of ghastly bloody deaths, murder and torture. Saw enough of that in my early life for real; have no desire to celebrate it. The second thing that bothers me about this holiday is its reflection of our being juvenile into adulthood, not growing up. So many of my fellow baby boomers still act and think like they're teenagers or in their twenties.

I told my questioner that I celebrated All Saints Day, or All Souls Day, a day of recognition for those in our lives that have passed on. It's a day of remembering and honoring our dead. Certainly a more mature and thoughtful approach to our connection to the dead than having a costume party with the kids. I'm grateful that, with the exception of my Dad, all those extremely close and meaningful to me are still alive.

Still, moving from summer to winter, I'm mindful of this connection to dying and death. I know I'm nearing my end, and in a way embrace it. I've mentioned this to people, and they thought it macabre or a kind of death wish that I'm well aware I'm probably within the last decade of my life, and speak of it. I'm in my early 60's, and life expectancy now for men in the US is seventy-five. My priorities are God (worship, prayer, church), family and friends, then work. I've been through that period when work was the priority. That's not a healthy thing.  

There's the whole thing about "life is short", though a sage has said, it's plenty long enough, it's just that most of  us waste what time we have. Knowing my sojourn is closing wonderfully focuses my mind, on God.

On the shortness of life the Psalms says:
Our span is seventy years,
or eighty for those who are strong.
And most of these are emptiness and pain.
They pass swiftly and we are gone.
Who understands the power of your anger
and fears the strength of your fury?
Make us know the shortness of our life
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
I pray I've gained some of that wisdom of heart. The pain I've experienced is so small though compared to what others have lived. I think of those who lived as slaves, or in totalitarian States with their gulags for those that think differently than they were told to, or people so poor they live in dumps to survive. We live in a prosperous and free nation, and even our poor have it better that most alive now in other countries, and certainly better than our ancestors. I've been homeless a couple times, unemployed, drifting, and yet was always able to find food and shelter, and never a slave.

Given all that, I look forward to heaven the way the Apostle Paul did:
Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. (Phil 1:20-23)
I'm grateful I've lived this long, really happy most people judge me to be at least ten years younger than I am, that I'm healthy, productive, and still can fulfill God's plans for me. At the same time, being with God, in His presence, what could be better?

Psalm 27:
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD….My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me.

"Autumn Leaves" Eva Cassidy

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall


rob said...

That is how a man of God speaks, because that is what you are, my friend.

Steven Dexter said...

Thanks Rob...