The experience of grief is intimate and personal. After the final words of comfort and encouragement are spoken, family and guests depart, the flowers wilt, and the last casserole is frozen or consumed, we withdraw to a place of emotional and spiritual freedom where we can memorialize our loved one more privately than publicly. Whether we invite others one by one into the sacred space of our grief, or share our story of life and love in community, or we open our heart to close family members, acquaintances, or even relative strangers, we put our saints in circulation.
During the seventeenth-century reign of Oliver Cromwell in Great Britain, the government ran low on silver for coins. Cromwell sent out his men out into the local cathedrals to see if they could find any precious metals. They reported, "The only silver we could find is in the statues of the saints standing in the corners." To which Cromwell replied, "Good! We'll melt them down and put them into circulation!" And though it is not always so, those we love in life and remember in death are the saints of our lives. Their eternal qualities are our enduring, lasting legacy, the coin of our personal realm. We put our saints in circulation when their spiritual gifts live on long after they die - in us and through us.
Some describe those whose lives are well-lived as durable saints. When I consider those who have enriched my life emotionally and spiritually, I remember my beloved husband with heartfelt gratitude for his profound influence on my life and on the lives of countless others through his inspired ministry. I remember my father, who embodied the love of God the Father. The sustained presence of durable saints in our lives assures us of all that is eternal.
In his book Longing for Enough in a Culture of More, Rev. Paul Escamilla reflects on durable saints, “Among the varied ways faithfulness has become the fabric of their lives, one quality has been identifiable again and again: a certain adequacy of means that issues forth in abundance for others.”
He continues, “At their passing, these durable saints have signed the air not so much with fanfare as grace. The ledgers of their lives are long in matters of generosity, self-giving, and trust; more measured in the realm of acquisition and possessions; and slimmest of all in regard to recognition and self-promotion. In other words, over a lifetime they seem to have needed little and offered much.”
As we observe All Saints Day on November 1, we pause to honor not only the saints of the Church, but also to thank God for the saints of our life. We learn from our durable saints that the most valuable inheritance we leave to those we love is the essence of who we are - our love, authentic goodness, kindness, compassion, and our living example of sterling faith. The endowments of our spirit will always be present to those we love who, for a while, will grieve. Yet we are assured in Revelation 21 verse 4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Through the eternal, everlasting presence of God, both in life and in death we are saints in circulation.
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.