I can’t celebrate All Saints and All Souls without recalling my own beloved dead. One of them is my grandfather – the Revd Alexander Harpur, a parish priest in East Anglia till his retirement and a good, loving, gentle man. I didn’t know him for long – I was only four years old when he died in his 80’s – but I remember his smile and the sense of welcome whenever I was with him. He was one who could be remembered under the great crowd of All Saints who did their bit to make the world a more loving, God-filled place.
Another of my beloved dead is my oldest brother – Geoffrey. We shared a life on this world only for a very few weeks – not long after I was born, he died at the age of three, from the multiple disabilities that had been with him since birth. Geoffrey could not be said to have achieved anything in his short life on one scale of measurement, that of doing. But on another, that of being, he achieved a great deal – he gave my mum and dad and the others who cared for him someone to love and cherish. He opened the hearts of those around him by his need and helplessness and so also made the world a more loving, God-filled place.
Alexander and Geoffrey lived completely different lives but both deserve to be celebrated as souls who were created and loved by God and as saints who made a difference to the world. They, and all those like them, call us not only to remember and celebrate our predecessors but also to consider the legacy that we will leave after our own death. How will we have touched the world with God’s gentleness? What will we have helped to blossom? Where will we have sown seeds that bear fruit in the future?
As we remember those whose love has shaped us, it’s good to also think about the inheritance we will leave behind. In the words of the Australian cartoonist and prayer writer Michael Leunig: Let us live in such a way, That when we die, Our love will survive, And continue to grow. Amen.