Sunday, September 27th, I had a reservation for drive-in church. It would be the first time in months that I’d received Communion. It was one of those private little moments of joy that I shared with my friend, Roy, knowing he would appreciate the oddity of making reservations for church. Without fail, he immediately cracked the joke, “Jesus … party of two…” But he also appreciated the specialness of it and early that Sunday morning, he texted me, “Hope you enjoy your reservation with Jesus. I know I keep him busy. Tell him I said hi.”
I responded later with a photo of the individual Communion chalice I was given and the message, “He says hi back.”
I never dreamed that the next time I would be at a drive-in church service, only a few weeks later, Roy would be gone.
Today, on All Saints Day, for the first time since late February, I walked into my parish church for a Sunday service. There were many modifications made to maintain safety protocols, including continuing the use of individual Communion chalices. As I held it in my hands during the Words of Institution, it suddenly hit me that Roy was now the one with the reserved seat at the table and I swear I heard him whisper in my ear, “I’ll tell him you said hi.”
Over the years, Roy and I shared many a deep conversation and equally as many moments of laughter and silliness. But what I treasured most were times of comfortable shared silences. It is a rare gift to find a friend who was so comfortable with stillness. This year has been a year of losses and sadness and, yet, Roy always managed to find a way to make me smile. While my phone no longer pings at random times with check-in messages or funny memes to brighten my day, those shared silences are still there.
As I pray the office every morning, I sense Roy’s presence. I often told him I envied him because I didn’t have his discipline and he would always smile a knowing little smile and say, “Oh don’t worry. You will.” And now, when prayer is quite literally the only thing keeping me afloat, I can hear him saying, “See? I told you so. Be still. Listen.”
So as I celebrate this All Saints Day and remember those I’ve lost this year, I am reminded that those bonds of friendship and love are not broken by death. Rather, I know that those I loved, who have joined the great cloud of witnesses, continue to walk with me, pray with me, and guide me.