Passing It On

 

Today is All Saints Day, when all my beloved departeds dance and swirl at the back of my mind, emerging whole from memories.

They remind me to cherish each moment and live fully engaged. A friend who is a cancer survivor once embraced me with an awareness like that. Many times he had been within striking distance of death, but none so close as his battle with colon cancer. I had not seen him for over a decade, but when he saw me, he hugged me tightly and said that he cherished me. His words were not romantic or trite. They felt pressed down into an essence wrung from illness and the certainty of death—an awareness that allowed him to freely express affection and gratitude every remaining day of his life.

This message is similar to the one my longtime mentor and pastor, Reverend Gustav Schulz, gave me the night before his funeral. I dreamt that I was in his church and he urged me to join in singing the song, “Pass it on.” During his adult life, Gus had participated in the civil rights movement, the Sanctuary movement, anti-war movements, homeless advocacy, and the movement to reunite North and South Korea. His was a hard act to follow. But here in my dream, Gus was encouraging me to take up the torch and to pass it on.

So I sang “Pass it On,” for Gus in my dream, and in my waking life, I renewed my commitment to struggle for social and environmental justice. On days like today, I feel the presence of Gus and many other peace makers, and I remember to pass on their legacy of struggle and hope.

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