How we remember the dead is significant in how we live. Good ‘remembering’ in general is part of how we live in the present. This is very human, for to be in time is to be on the boundary of the eternal, where past, present and future are as one.

The Byzantine tradition prays for the deceased ‘may their memory be eternal.’ This fascinating prayer intends something for both the deceased and those praying. May the dead live in heaven and in memory; and may our memory itself be alive with the presence of the dead.

There is much to consider—and to pray for—that our memory of the deceased be what it should be. Our memory should not be self-pitying or indulging in what we have lost. As usual, we are called to look outward and think of others. Gratitude should be thematic; and gratitude is always first about others. When we remember our deceased with true gratitude, it includes a wish and prayer for their fullness of life, right now. And while cognizant of separation, this remembering has as root the faith that our lives are still interwoven today, and can be much more so. One great day.

Today is one year since the passing of my father-in-law. I want today to pray this prayer and to live this prayer better. Vichnaya pamyat. May his memory be eternal. Last year I shared some of Damian’s story, and of how in his final days his thoughts went back to Ukraine, his native land, his home land.

I share now a traditional Ukrainian song we sang at his burial. This song is often sung when a Ukrainian emigrant is buried in a foreign land. The crane is a very large migratory bird, known for returning to the same place, or home, year after year. But of course dangers and vicissitudes of life can make it impossible for the birds to make it back home.

Emigrants too that have flown across the sea often never make it back to their beloved home-land.

Perhaps herein is something that applies to all of us. We all want in the end to be at home. But to what extent are we able really to be at home in this life? How do we learn what a home is? What in the end is our home, and what does it take to get there and to stay there? These are very real questions with which we must reckon, especially when we gather to bury someone. And also when we simply remember.

Here is a video of singing The Cranes at Damian’s burial:

The Cranes ( My brother, do you hear,)
My brother, do you hear,
O my dear, comrade,
Fly’in away there, in a grey line,
Are the cranes, for winter.

Crying: kroo-kroo-koo,
In a foreign land I’ll die,
By the time I fly across the sea,
I’ll wear away, my wings,
I’ll wear away, my wings,

Glim’rin in our eyes
Is their endless flight,
Perish, perish, in the dark mist
All traces, of the cranes.

Crying: kroo-kroo-kroo,
In a foreign land I’ll die,
By the time I cross the sea,
I’ll wear, away my wings,
I’ll wear away, my wings,

Thank you to Jacob Schmiedicke of Story Quest Video for putting together this video.

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