A Saint. With mud on her shoes.
Just a week or so ago, I received the news of the death of Dr. Linda Rea, a professor at Hiram College, where I attended school.
Dr. Rea was a beloved teacher, an activist-scholar, and a person of both deep faith and deep questions. A communication and media specialist, she spent much of her career focusing on human rights abuses and emerging democracies. She monitored elections in a number of Central American countries, took students to El Salvador during the Civil War, and helped raise awareness of the critical issues facing the region on campus and among her colleagues.
Her life was impacted by a severe traffic accident several years ago, and though she fought as hard in recovery as she did in every aspect of her life, she faced physical challenges that slowed her down considerably. She became ill not long ago, and despite her powerfully compassionate heart and nimble mind, her body gave out.
The last time I saw Dr. Rea was at a protest rally a few years before her accident. It was a cool and cloudy day, the ground wet from the night before. She was vibrant and resolute, a small cross in her hand with the name of a young civilian killed by a Honduran death squad. It We marched through the mud, the names on our crosses—civilians killed by dictatorships—read aloud, followed by a response of “Presente” (Spanish for “Present”) from the gathered crowd, as if to announce the presence of that person’s spirit, brought to life by the remembering of her name.
As we approach All Saints Day, I think of that moment, and I remember Dr Rea—Linda’s—name and legacy: the students she mentored into socially aware citizens, the faith that would not let her be silent in the midst of global injustice, and the strength she showed through her entire life, even until the end.
We all have people like that we remember as Saints—mentors in our lives of faith, folks who have shown us the way, many gone too soon. When we remember them, and live out what they taught us, we—in a sense—awaken their presence, and keep their names and legacies alive.
We’ll remember these Saints as we gather this Sunday.