A Season For Remembering

This is taken from Richard’s article in the parish magazine …

Remembrance will play a big part in the life of the church and our community over the next couple of months, in particular, on the evening of 2nd November (about the time of All Souls), we will have a Service of Remembrance for loved ones who have died and the there will be the annual Act of Remembrance the following week at 10.30 (not our usual 10.00 start) on Remembrance Sunday, 9th November.

Remembering is an important part of understanding who we are and growing as mature people and it’s important that we do it well. That’s not to say it is always miserable or ‘worthy’ – some of the best funeral orations raise at least one good laugh! But of course it is also profoundly sad to loose someone we love, and most of us have felt that pain.

So what makes for ‘good remembering’?

Perhaps the first thing is honesty, to acknowledge the sadness and not hide the tears but also to be able to laugh at the fun and outrageous memories. This is where friends and family are so important, the mood swings, especially early in bereavement can make us think we are going mad but friends who stick with us, whatever our mood, are so valuable. People who will listen, speak, laugh or cry with us, or may be just quietly get on with life when that is what is needed, they help us to be honest with ourselves and get through the hard times.

Anger can be a huge part of bereavement too. Anger that someone was taken too soon or that they suffered so much. It may be anger at something that went wrong and now there will never be a chance to put it right. How do we handle that?

Again friends who will let us sound off and not remind

us later of the outlandish things we said can help give a release that is healthy. Anger is such a powerful energy, if we try to squash it, it can just go on boiling inside us, until it explodes.

But that energy can also be an amazing motivation for really powerful action; like people who loose someone to cancer who go on and raise money for MacMillan Nurses, or people who loose someone in an accident who give themselves to campaigning for road safety. Amazingly the anger that can be so destructive can also become something that gives meaning and new direction to people who have lost the most important person in their lives.

Channelling anger is also so important when we remember war. Earlier this year we remembered the 100th anniversary of ‘the war to end all wars’ and on Remembrance Sunday we will remember the end of that war four years later with millions dead.

But it did not end all wars, war never can, because it will always create more anger that will boil away until it explodes in more violence. So war breeds fear because we become afraid of the person that we have just angered. It does not matter that we have logic or justice on our side; anger is not logical.

This has never been clearer than in Gaza at the moment; Israel has reason to be fearful of surrounding nations who would like to see them destroyed and the Palestinians are angry because they feel imprisoned, pushed out of their homeland and having suffered so much. But as long as fear and anger are only expressed in violence there will be no hope of peace or justice.

This gets multiplied far and wide, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine …
So what can we do? How can we remember constructively on Remembrance Sunday?

Just as at a funeral there are all sorts of emotions so as we remember war there will be positive as well as negative thoughts. There may be thankfulness for friendship, loyalty, courage and, yes, excitement that made people feel alive, or a fight that give purpose to life. But there can also be self-righteousness or bitterness that can be so destructive.

The notion that all we need to do is destroy the evil is naive and fanciful. Sadly though, that’s a wonderfully simplistic message that sells newspapers and gets politicians elected. But it has been seen to fail time and time again as war follows war.

No, the question for every one of us when we boil inside with anger is how we can direct that angry energy to be constructive, to help people whom we would otherwise fight. To be people who build bridges rather than blow them up.

Jesus once said ‘love your enemies’. Does that sound naive and fanciful? Maybe, but it’s a lot more realistic than going on with the cycle of anger and violence in the hope that it will bring peace or security. As we remember failure of the First World War to be the ‘war to end all wars’ we are clearly reminded of that.


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