Today, Friday, November 8, is my mother’s birthday. Well, to be accurate, I should say it was her birthday.
Mom passed away in May, so I won’t be celebrating it this year like before.
She would have been 88. That’s a lot of years. She was widowed the last 37 of them, and for all that time she never quit missing Dad.
He was her best friend and passion for living, and so it was very tough for her to make the best of a less than ideal life, for that long.
Her birthday was exactly one week after All Hallows Day on November 1 each year, the “holiday” for which All Hallows Eve, aka Halloween, is recognized.
All Hallows Day, more commonly known as All Saints Day, was an annual event in the early church designated to remember the lives of beloved brothers and sisters in Christ who passed away.
Though seemingly all well and good, the intended purpose was skewed when it eventually conjoined with the Gaelic festival of Samhain.
On Samhain, the ancient Irish believed evil spirits entered our world, and lanterns were carved from pumpkins to illuminate the dark, and masks were worn to keep the demons confused about who was who.
Do you know where the tradition of Trick or Treat comes from? Acknowledging first that there is a disparity in belief about this in the Catholic and Protestant traditions, on All Hallows Day the faithful followers of Jesus Christ once were encouraged to pray to saints departed.
I don’t want to get into the weeds right now about who is a saint and who isn’t, and whether Jesus is our sole intercessor in Heaven or not, but offer this as foundation for what Trick or Treat was originally.
You see, back in that day, poor people would go door to door on All Hallows Eve, begging food in exchange for the prayers they would offer for the dead. Seriously.
(Not to be a party pooper or to throw cold water on the annual practice of having our kids collect as much sugar-laden, tooth-rotting, diabetes-inducing junk food as can be carried in a plastic pail or cotton pillowcase, but Trick or Treat isn’t exactly rooted in a wholesome, righteous tradition, now is it?)
I miss Mom. I put her picture on my phone as its wallpaper to see every time I use it.
She loved holidays. Christmas was her favorite by far, and she liked to make a big deal of Valentine’s Day for the grandkids too.
She would join us for Thanksgiving dinner, put out flags for Memorial Day, and watch the fireworks with us on the Fourth. I remember times on Halloween when she would dress up to the hilt with a pointed black hat, black gloves, a black cape, with makeup and for-real, old fashioned, leather, high heeled, grandma boots. She’d become mobility challenged, but used her cane to bring bags of treats to stow by the chair on her Florence Avenue front porch.
She just loved the kids coming, and was filled with joy to participate in blessing the visiting goblins, ghosts, ghouls, superheroes, munchkins and princesses with full-sized candy bar treats!
I know this is weird, but sometimes I find myself talking to Mom. I wouldn’t call it a conversation per se, but a brief “thank you”, with a smirky smile when I recall something endearing about her. Don’t misunderstand me though, this hasn’t anything to do with paranormal activity, or a concept that she’s now an angel assigned to my care, or a reincarnated presence looking over me. No, she’s in Heaven, and I’m here on Earth, with a vast difference in condition between us. I’m not sure that she hears me,
but, based on a number of scriptural references, there is reason to believe that those in eternity are familiar with what is happening here. I hope so.
Although I still have some warm moments with Mom in my mind periodically, I don’t ever pray to her or other deceased loved ones. What’s the point? And how silly to pray for them. Let’s face it, once we’re out of here, our fate is set in stone.
At death, what is done is done; permanently; eternally.
Please understand that our forever destination, our everlasting condition, is determined in this life, not the next. The opportunity for forgiveness, to receive another chance, a do over, is offered in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, given freely to be accepted before dying. Mom accepted Jesus’s offer then, and she’s enjoying eternal life now.
What is eternal life? Some would say it is an infinite, innumerable quantity of time. That’s a pretty good explanation. Other, more astute observers may answer that it also is an indescribable, unfathomable quality of life. Well said.
But what if I was to tell you that Jesus Himself defined “eternal life” for us? The gospel of John, chapter 17, verse 3 says it this way, quoting Jesus:
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
You see, eternal life is knowing Jesus. It is having a deeply personal relationship with Him. It’s about an intimate connection, a special comradery, with God’s Son; knowing Him as Lord, Savior, Covenant Partner, and Best Friend.
May I ask, do you know Him? If you don’t, ask someone who does to introduce you. You really need to meet Him.
Next week, let’s talk some about Thanksgiving, on our way towards Christmas, OK?
Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at Dove Church Wilmington. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.