Welcome to Highlands United Church!
The Ross Bay Cemetery on the south edge of Victoria is one of those classic old cemeteries perched above the beach overlooking the ocean. I walk among the stones, some tipping with age, others standing like sturdy pillars of resistance to weather and time. I pause and read the inscriptions on all the stones, and in my mind’s eye I picture the lives to which the inscriptions and the symbols point.
We are here to lay to rest the remains of my mother, tucked beneath the grass alongside my grandparents, nestled under the Magnolia whose leaves have been shed for the oncoming winter. Endings are everywhere: the dark trees are letting go of rusty leaves for another season, the setting sun’s light is brushing the tips of the pines with orange – letting go of another day, and we are committing mother’s ashes to the ground- a final letting go.
Autumn is the perfect time for this. It is the season of harvest, the season of thanks, the season of remembrance, the season of letting go. In her poem, “In Blackwater Woods,” Mary Oliver says it more poetically than I ever could:
Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into
pillars of light,
are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment,
the long tapers of cattails
are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders
of the ponds, and every pond,
no matter what its name is,
is nameless now. Every year everything I have ever learned
in my lifetime leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss whose other side
is salvation, whose meaning
none of us will ever know. To live in this world
you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal; to hold it
against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
I turn and head back into the daily, weekly rolling on of life, determined more than ever to love what is mortal, to hold it as close as I can, and, when the time comes, to let it go. An affirmation of life.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Will Sparks
Lead Minister, Highlands United Church