Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Dance in the Graveyard

JuzniFront
I know this may sound strange, and I'm not sure why, but November 1 - All Saints Day - is, other than Christmas, probably my most favorite day on the Liturgical Calendar.

I know Easter is the Day of Resurrection, and it's always a joyous occasion,  but it still doesn't give me the same emotional or spiritual jolt to my soul as does All Saints Day.

I love the idea of seeing all my loved ones - as well as those I've never met or even heard of - in a place where there is no pain or suffering, neither sorrow nor crying any more. I expect a wonderful great, big, phat family reunion that will take me the rest of eternity to meet and know everyone.

I believe what we say in the preface of the Eucharistic Prayer at funerals - "For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended;".

When I pray one of the collects at a funeral service, I pray it from my heart:
"Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth,until, by your call,we are united with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Yes, it is a matter of faith. I have no idea what happens after death. No one does. But, I have faith that there is more to life than this life - rich and full and amazingly wonderful as it is, most of the time. I have faith in "eternal life" because I believe there is something more - something bigger, something with an intellectual life I can not fathom - than just me and you.

Yes, of course, I mourn the loss of those I've loved. I think of them often in little, unexpected ways that surprise me. Sometimes, it makes me very sad. Sometimes, the memories bring me great joy and whatever sadness I feel is softened by the overwhelming gratitude I feel to have had them in my life.

Yes, even the scoundrels and ne'er do wells and people with whom I had serious disagreements.

I have great hope that, when we're together again in 'that Great Bye-and-Bye, all will be forgiven and all will be well. In all manner of things, all will be well.

And what of the sadness and the mourning? Well, the best explanation of that I've ever heard is in a scene between "Ma" and "Arnold" from Torch Song Trilogy. Ma (played exquisitely by Ann Bancroft) says to her son (played brilliantly by Harvey Fierstein):
Give yourself time, Arnold. It gets better... But, Arnold, it never goes away. You can work longer hours, adopt a son, fight with me, whatever... it'll still be there. But that's all right, it becomes a part of you, like learning to wear a ring or a pair of eyeglasses. You get used to it. And that's good. It's good, because it makes sure you don't forget. You don't want to forget him, do you?
The pain of loss is not a bad thing. It's part of life. It's a good thing. You wouldn't feel pain if what you had lost wasn't good.  The thing about Life Eternal, however, is that there is always hope to see your loved one again. And this time, it will be surpassing sublime.

While I do not hold a "classic" understanding of either The Atonement or The Resurrection, I do believe in the Incarnation and Life Eternal. I can't prove either one.

As I said, it's a matter of faith, which brings me deep solace and great joy.

And, it's bittersweet. I think it's the bittersweet nature of All Saints Day that I find so compelling. It's thoroughly human and wonderfully faithful.

I don't know too many people who take the same great joy in the celebration of this day as I do. That is, until I heard an interview on NPR with a group from North Carolina called Delta Rae.

Their four - and sometimes six - part harmonies are amazing. You can hear influences of gospel and blues, but you can also tell that they spent a great deal of time listening to their parents' music, which included James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac and Cat Stevens.

Their first album is "Carry the Fire" and their songs can tend toward the ...well.... quirky. It includes a love song - "If I loved you" - about unrequited love that is, well, odd but wonderfully truthful. There's another song, "Country House" which is a beautiful meditation on the word "lonesome".

I do love the song, "Morning Comes" - especially the line "....and jealous is the night when the morning comes. And, it always comes." The song that's getting the most play on the airways is "Bottom of the River" which is spooky and dark and wonderful but it's not my favorite.

That would be, "Dance in the Graveyard". I don't know what this group knows or understands or believes about The Resurrection, but this song expresses it perfectly. In fact, after the third time I heard the song, I immediately sent a text to Ms. Conroy and two of our daughters saying that, while I wasn't planning to check out any time too soon, I wanted this song played as the recessional at my funeral and I made them promise they would.

So, here's the video and the lyrics.  For me, it's captures the spirit of this day. I don't expect you'll hear it played or performed in any church or part of any liturgical experience, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find any hymn that better expresses a sound theology of death and resurrection.



When I die
I don’t want to rest in peace
I want to dance in joy
I want to dance in the graveyards, the graveyards
And while I’m alive
I don’t want to be alone
Mourning the ones who came before
I want to dance with them some more
Let’s dance in the graveyards

Gloria, like some other name we kept on calling ya and waiting for change
But I belong to all of your mysteries

And all of us, we’re meant for the fire, but we keep rising up and walking the wires
So when we go below don’t lose us in mourning

’Cause when I die
I don’t want to rest in peace
I want to dance in joy
I want to dance in the graveyards, the graveyards
And while I’m alive
I don’t want to be alone
Mourning the ones who came before
I want to dance with them some more
Let’s dance in the graveyards

Oh my love, don’t cry when I’m gone
I will lift you up, the air in your lungs
And when you reach for me, we’ll dance in the darkness

And we will walk beyond
Our daughters and sons, they will carry on
Like when we were young, and we will stand beside and breathe in their new life

’Cause when I die
I don’t want to rest in peace
I want to dance in joy
I want to dance in the graveyards, the graveyards
And while I’m alive
I don’t want to be alone
Mourning the ones who came before
I want to dance with them some more
Let’s dance in the graveyards
 Happy All Saint's Day, everyone. Remember: We belong to all of God's mysteries.

If you're looking for me today, try visiting one of the graveyards.

I'll be the one there, dancing. 

16 comments:

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Love this. And I just posted that very same prayer up on Facebook. (See also: those whose lives are closely linked w/ours + people of the book of common prayer!)

Hugs!

Kay & Sarah said...

This reminds of my childhood and visiting the graveyards with my mother and maternal grandmother. I was always excited and enjoyed the time that we spent in the graveyards and my mother and grandmother thought it was a little funny. In looking back, what I remembered most was the stories they told. I felt as if I was getting to know these ancestors and I loved the stories. I guess I was kinda dancing in the graveyard. I love those memories.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I think about those people at unexpected times, too--including those still alive where something divisive happened between us and the people who were just too toxic for me or I was too toxic for them...and my hope is that there will be a means of reconciliation when we are all in the company of saints together. Perhaps that's the only time it CAN happen. I recognize that despite my hopes, there can be no reconciliation on my own merit. Sometimes I get lucky and God lets me see that happen through grace...but usually not. We can't always count on God acting on two people and both hearing it and obeying it.

Funny, sometimes I yearn for those reconciliatory moments more than seeing people I love who are gone from this world. I guess I always figure the ones that love me, well, we'll just pick up where we left off.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Susan - I love you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kay&Sarah - My grandmother often took the whole family on picnics in the graveyard. She'd tell us stories of the ones who were buried there and how she came to this country and how it was when she first came here.

I love every minute of it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kirke - That's my image of Eternal Life, as well. We'll just pick up the conversations where we left off, but we'll hear them differently then.

Which is why I think we should dance in the graveyards now.

Marthe said...

I do so get your imagery and have also always been a fan of All Saints, emphasis on the all part. And if the sweet bye and bye is indeed sweet, I shall be deeply relieved - being so thoroughly disapproved of by most of the departed in my life, the idea of seeing them again for another round of whatever it is they think I should have done or been or become, well let's just say none of that would be "heavenly" ... your version sounds lovely ... will imagine that, instead.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marthe - If I thought that I would have to spend eternity with the scoundrels in my life without any sort of resolution or reconciliation, I would refuse to go. I believe we will be "perfected" in death - and that includes me an all my various nefarious relatives.

I've actually been in Hospice chaplaincy situations where, the only reason a person was able to let go and die peacefully was that we had conversations about this exact subject before they died. They didn't want to die for fear of meeting the alcoholic / abusive person in their lives. I do not believe in a God that would allow torment to continue through eternity.

It's what I believe. I don't try and convince others to believe what I believe but ask them only to trust in my trust. For some, it's the one thing they needed to hold onto so they could let go.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim said...

WOW! That is definitely praying music! I want that at my funeral. Amazing music, and great theology do not often come together like that.

A few years ago, my grandfather then 99 died. He and I had talked about it, he knew it was coming and he was as he said,
"ready." 99 years! I felt such a sense of joy, of victory when it happened, I wanted to dance the casket down the aisle.
Unfortunately we are talking a Missouri Synod Aisle and that was not something allowed. But I do want it for mine and now I know the music to play.

Thanks!

Dance in the graveyards as the music says, luck in the shadows as my people say.

FWIW
jimB

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

As a hospice chaplain, I'm so privileged to be with people - families - at this point in their journey. I'm so glad you got that experience with your dad. I get to have that over and over again.

Anonymous said...

This was a difficult All Saints Day for me. Thank you for this. Sometime one needs to hear a new song!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Glad I could help.

RENZ said...

That graveyard scene from Torch Song, that Ann Bancroft speech is one of a handful of cinema moments that hit me good and hard. Perfect little moments of Truth. Another is the scene in which Shug Avery crashes the church service singing, God Is Trying To Tell You Something and finally receives the hug from her minister father she has waited so long for, and says, "See, Daddy, even sinners have souls."

RENZ said...

Sorry, that last bit was in The Color Purple.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

RENZ - I love both plays so I recognized the difference. Both are so powerful b/c they represent, as you say, "perfect little moments of truth". You don't forget those moments easily.