November 1st. All Saints Day.
We buried my mother on this day in 1961. In July, we opened the earth again and laid my father to rest at her side. He lived to be 95, she, just 33.
You know all that. But what you might not know is that when we lingered at the grave to see him through with chains and pulleys that lowered him in, we could see the edge of my mother’s crypt, the same kind of concrete chamber with a lid, and we could see it, aged and weathered for 57 years, but there still, with her bones inside.
I continue to ponder the strange mystery, that after 57 years it would give me a profound sense of peace and comfort to see what I once saw but can’t remember, to know that what I long for is there in the ground; to see that earth and matter has kept her body as both cradle and grave; and to realize, that by seeing this physical evidence of her existence, I know now that she was/is real, and then, for some odd reason, know myself to be real. Why would seeing her crypt matter so profoundly?
I’ll be working on that for awhile . . .but I wonder, does it matter, simply because we are matter? It’s how we know.
We are matter and substance, and it is our human life to be formed of clay and God-breathed. It is how we know and love and recognize as individual. It is how we keep community. Human form, material substance. Human being.
Our common life.
We will remember the saints in light by naming them out loud on Sunday, which is part All Saints, part All Souls ritual. Today, November 2nd, is All Souls’, the day we remember the dead. The dead who we know and love in sacred body and whose matter we share and keep as sacred.
The matter we know and love and call by name.
Lucille. “Cille”. Lucille Ruth. My mother’s name.
Our faith community. On Shabbat, they ‘walk in love’. We’ve been talking about that lately, walking in love.
How can we walk in love with our neighbors who suffered horrendous injustice and horrific violence? The News has been filled with images of mourners and processions and caskets being carried in love. Bodies massacred, sacred flesh gathered up in love and carried to cradle and grave.
I delivered white roses and a card to the Synagogue yesterday on behalf of us all. We will name them among the Saints on Sunday. We will say 11 names of people we did not know who were slain in Pittsburgh as they worshipped the Holy One who breathed them into being.
This is just the beginning part of our falling in love with our neighborhood, our spiritual challenge to walk in love.
We name names. And somehow by the naming, we keep them, like earth keeping earth, their bones, their real matter; we remember them and it makes them real and by it, we know ourselves to be real.
Our common, sacred, material life.
Our Hallowed existence.
Reverend Ruth Pattison
The Rev. Ruth Pattison was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the third of four children, to Bill and Lucille Lindberg. Although young Ruth was raised in the Baptist church, her father was an organist and choirmaster in the Episcopal Church, which is where she discovered her love for liturgy and music.