Walking through the church grounds the other day I stopped to watch the gardeners at work. One man was blowing the leaves into piles, while another shovelled them into blue bags. His friend was bent over digging small holes under a tree, preparing a place for bulbs which will flower in spring. Another was running the mower over the grass, which amazingly was still growing in the early days of November. All the gardeners were dressed in winter clothes, hats, padded jackets, gloves, slightly reddened faces and just the odd little drip at the end of the nose showing the chilly temperature. I really loved watching these men taking care of the environment around the church as winter creeps in. Now the trees are bare, the flowers have died away and fewer people stop and sit, that’s winter.

As nature shows us that dying is a natural part of cycle and rhythm of life, we enter into a month of special remembrance of the dead. Those who left us during the past year are honoured at an annual mass for the bereaved, led by the funeral ministry team, and it’s always deeply moving to see so many parishioners and friends, united by a common bond of loss, and yet able to support each other on the journey of grief. We have marked the Feast of All Saints and mark All Souls Day. Many have sat down and written an Altar List, composing memories with the names of generations past. As I wrote my mother’s name, Julie, I realised that today, November 13th is her 32nd anniversary, they are gone from us, but never forgotten. Our Scripture reassures that we are a people of hope and the Lord himself has promised to bring us to a place prepared.

Last year in this November note I wrote about a boy tragically killed by a sliotar in a freak accident at school, I wonder how his family are doing, and pray for them. Since then so many have died in war, famine, pandemic and so many accidents. The bravery of another young boy, Hamish O’Flaherty and his courageous words continue to inspire us, speaking at his dad’s funeral in Creeslough he encouraged us to “be grateful: for your families, take care of them. Be thankful because you won’t have them forever. So, use the time you have wisely.”

We can’t live in an endless summer, we grow in faith by accepting loss and praying for the dead. We can use our time wisely. May they rest in peace. Amen.