Holy One, on this day of remembrance we say aloud their names again: the names of those who died this year. Died — the word is jarring. So jarring that we hardly use the word, substituting euphemisms that are a bit more vague.
Sometimes people say “lost” when what they mean is dead: “We lost so-and-so this year.”
But people who die are not lost. They are not misplaced. We did not just lose sight of them, nor did they wander off. They died, and it is as final as the word sounds.
But that is, of course, why we don’t say, “they died.” When people die, they do not just disappear and we continue on. There is no such thing “as out of sight, out of mind.” There is no switch to flip to turn off our feelings. The person may not be lost, but we are at a loss: for words; for normalcy; for what was, and what could have been. And grief is such an unwieldy thing: we are fine one minute, years even, and then the deep sadness comes, seemingly out of nowhere.
That’s the thing about people who are loved: their memories keep. They’re never too far away. They come to us in a song lyric or a line of movie dialogue or on a long walk. What was it that they always said? Oh, that’s right. And they always had to have it a certain way. So maybe we’ll do it that way, and laugh a little, in memoriam.
Be with us, Holy One, as we grieve over the empty chairs at the table. We’ll light a candle and say an extra prayer, and we trust with sure and certain hope that You had them before we let them go.