This article appeared first in the November edition of Itchen Valley News
As Harvest passes with the end of October, so we move inexorably to our next staging post on the journey to Christmas and then to Easter. We are now in the season of Remembrance. Our Remembrance Day service this year is at St John’s Itchen Abbas on Sunday 10th November at 1050am. We will all stand, rain or shine, to remember the many who have given their lives for our nation. Some will remember friends and comrades. Some in uniform will remember the heavy responsibility of defending the nation that they have inherited from those of the past. All of us will come together before God in civic and national duty to show our appreciation of what another generation suffered to enable us to have the freedoms that we enjoy today.
But our remembrance season includes, not only Remembrance Sunday, but also our All Souls Service. This year this service is at St Swithun’s Martyr Worthy at 6pm on Sunday 3rd November. All Souls is an opportunity to remember those who we loved, who have passed on before us, on a path that one day we will all have to tread.
I have been thinking about the shocking pain of bereavement in the last few weeks. In August a man of my age (or slightly younger), a friend, died from a massive stroke just after playing tennis. This happened on a Thursday. On the Saturday I had the great joy of conducting a wedding in Easton. On the following Monday, also at St Mary’s, I led the funeral service for little Elsie Binney-Martin.
How can any of us respond to early, shocking bereavement? How can we be with those of our friends and neighbours who have suffered such a terrible loss? In C.S. Lewis’s book A Grief Observed he refers to the ‘sudden stab of red-hot memory’ in which ‘common sense vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace’. The widow of our friend who died said that one letter that she had received which really put the finger on how she was feeling, had been from someone who had also experienced the loss of a spouse too early in their marriage. He had written ‘How can you deal with a pain which is so great, when the absence of the one person who could have provided any real comfort, is the cause of that pain?’
Platitudes don’t help. But listening and being with the bereaved can help in a small way. Not avoiding those who have lost someone and allowing the bereaved to grieve at their own pace is important as well.
I feel that we should also, as a community, stand with those in our midst who are bereaved. In the same way that a funeral is an essential stepping stone on the journey of grief, so an All Souls Service can be an annual opportunity to mark that journey and to hold the one that we love up to God in the company of our neighbours, many of whom will also have suffered the terrible pain of loss.
Please do join us on Sunday 3rd November. If you would like someone in particular to have their name read out please do advise Beccy Clark in advance firstname.lastname@example.org