All Faithful Departed 2018 12 step Eucharist St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
Psalm 130 Psalm 116:10-17
Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
“Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”
This past week our church calendar was filled with three days of remembering those who have died, those we loved, many we did not know, and those we had read or heard about from our own ancestors. Wednesday was All Hallow’s Eve or the Vigil of All Saints, Thursday was All Saints, and Friday was All Souls or All Faithful Departed. At St. Mark’s we even made it into a four-day event as we celebrated on Sunday the Feast Day of All Saints with a baptism, a very appropriate liturgy of dying to sin and a rebirth. Particularly on All Souls we commemorate those we have known and those we have loved who have died. Some families try to visit graves of loved ones on the Day of All Faithful Departed.
One of my ministries as a deacon is working with people in recovery from addiction. Today I especially think about those in recovery who have died, and those in addiction who died without ever making it to recovery.
I am especially thinking about two men one in recovery, one not, who died on the same day almost ten years ago.
They both died within twenty-four hours of each other. One died alone. No friends were there. There was rarely anyone else there the few times I visited. The other died surrounded by his family and many friends. The death of the first was widely reported in the media and newspapers and on television. The other only had a very small obituary which appeared several days after he died. The first well known man had spent a life of perfection, making certain that procedures were carried out precisely the right way. The second lesser known man had been an alcoholic for much of his life. He had an awakening in a recovery center seven years before he died. He spent the rest of his life helping others find and stay in recovery. His was a life of progress not perfection. He died on his seventh AA birthday. That afternoon his AA friends brought a meeting to his house and gave him his seven-year AA coin. His daughter and his two grandchildren had made a birthday cake. The grandsons wanted to know why there was a number seven on Pops’ birthday cake. “Isn’t he 100 years old?” Pops laughed himself into a coughing fit when he heard that, as did all his other friends and family in his room. After the meeting was over, he collapsed and died surrounded by those who loved him so dearly. His daughter writes, “Not a day goes by that we do not talk about him. The boys have asked if he will ever come back down from heaven.”
I learned so much from these two very great men. From the first, I had a second-hand experience of the price of being right, of the ending to a life lived demanding perfection in yourself and others. From all accounts, his life as well as his ending was in isolation and lonely. From the second man I learned what happens when we live a life of recovery, relationship, of progress, not perfection. There will always be a community to support us if we are only open to that relationship and are aware and accepting of our own humanness, as well as the imperfection in our neighbor who is just like us.
Daily we are given the choice of which life to try to live…progress or perfection,/ and from these two souls who now rest in the hands of God, I learned the consequences of these two paths.. progress or perfection. I also have learned that progress is a road less traveled.