For All the Saints

I don’t remember thinking much about All Saints’ Day when I was growing up. I sort of remember there being a reading of the names of those in our congregations who had died in the previous year, and I remember the bell tolling for them, but nobody made a big deal about it at all.

Then, in my fortieth year, I taught at a Catholic school. And my mother died. And one of the things that the Catholics did differently was to give the families of the departed a yellow rose to bring to the altar in remembrance. I like that idea.

In researching the origins of All Saints’ Day, of course you have to consider All Hallows Even, or Halloween. It seems that Halloween was a Celtic tradition celebrating the end of summer:

On that evening, so it was believed, present, past, and future became one. Celts gave thanks for the safe return of their cattle to winter quarters, and invoked their gods for prosperity and good crops for the coming year.

Samhain was both the “end of summer” and a commemoration of the dead. The spirits of the departed were believed to visit their kinsmen in search of warmth and good cheer as winter approached.

So that’s where the spirits came in!

In some of my reading, I found that All Saints’ Day was a way for people to venerate their dead. I believe that the people I love who trusted Jesus for their salvation are with Him, so I wasn’t real sure about the veneration part. In my mind, that means to worship. BUT…we do learn from those who had faith and have died before us. Hebrews 11 is a good example of this, listing all the things the people of the Old Testament accomplished in faith, and I don’t think it is wrong to think of those who have died before us and the examples their lives have to comfort and teach us.

So…I think the idea of the yellow rose was comforting. Ten years ago, when I carried mine forward on All Saints’ Day, it comforted me to remember the example that my mother had been, to give public testimony apart from her funeral that her life mattered. And would always matter.

And this year, as All Saints’ Day approaches, I would like to offer a figurative yellow rose for my older sister. Her life mattered, too. And it still does.


Deborah at Russell’s Wedding

This is the last picture I have of my sister, taken at her son’s wedding two years ago this Sweetest Day. She had been ill for a long time by then, but I believe she knew what was going on. And I believe that she was happy about it.

So, Deborah, this is for you. I know that like the saints of old, you were put to the test. But your trials taught us all something. It hasn’t even been two months since you went to heaven, and already people are reaching out in ways I would not have thought possible. And it is because of you.

I love you, sis.

Until we meet again,


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.–Hebrews 12:1


2 Responses to “For All the Saints”

  1. 1 Bill Christen August 15, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Dear Mrs. Carpenter,

    My name is Bill Christen. I attended Start High School with your late sister Deborah (Debbie as I knew her). Last Friday my wife, Glenna Jo, and I attended one of the 45th reunion activities of our class in Toledo. I was surprised and very saddened to see in the reunion booklet that Debbie had passed away. I did a search online to learn about her death in 2006 and also came across your blog site.

    I took Debbie to our senior prom. In my yearbook she wrote that going to the prom was the “happiest moment” of her life to that point. She also indicated that the date of the prom was John F. Kennedy’s birth date, which must have been special to her. I am sure that she had many more significant and happier moments after that related to marriage, children and grandchildren.

    I moved to Michigan within a month of graduation and we did not continue a dating relationship beyond that summer. I do not recall that she and her husband ever attended any of the previous reunions so I never saw her again. I just wanted someone in her family to know that I appreciated her friendship and to express my condolences.


    Bill Christen

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