Saturday was a glorious spring day in Toronto, perfect running weather, when some 4000 runners and walkers, (including at least two United Church ministers and a few of us from the General Council Office), gathered in High Park for the annual Spring Run-Off. As the time for the 5km run approached, I felt the energy of the other runners, and the familiar mix of excited anticipation and dread that comes before a major effort of any kind. It is a very alive feeling.

Then the sound of bagpipes was heard, piping us to the starting place, and my heart filled with the memory of the bagpipes that led into my uncle’s funeral just three days earlier. It was a beautiful funeral that followed a brief period of mourning after the unexpected death of someone who was much loved and very engaged in the life of our extended family.

A bagpiper in a green kilt plays and marches in High Park. Runners are seen behind him.
Credit: 
Courtesy of Canada Running Series


Even in times of sadness, there is much to be grateful for. A faithful life well lived and well honoured. The drawing together of loved ones from near and far. The generosity of neighbours. The stories told with tears and laughter. The sense of God’s love embracing the one departed and the ones left behind.  

In the wail of bagpipes connecting the time of grief and the time of being fully alive, I heard reflected the words of Ecclesiastes that had been read at my uncle’s service: 

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”

Then it was the start time for the race, time for me to run, to push myself, to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, down and up the hills of High Park, to focus on being alive and surrounded by life in that moment.
 
Blessings,

Nora

 — Nora Sanders is General Secretary of The United Church of Canada. 

This message was originally sent to subscribers to the General Secretary's letter, "Note from Nora." Subscribe here.