Burns says that his documentaries are all about "waking the dead" and that this stems from his mother's death when he was 11.
He said he did not see this link until he was telling a friend how for years whenever he got a birthday cake, "I'd blow out the candles and wish that she'd be alive. He said, 'What do you think you do for a living? . . . You make Jackie Robinson and Abraham Lincoln and Louis Armstrong come alive. Who do you think you're really trying to wake?'"
There is value in “waking the dead.” We have much to learn from them. The Bible condemns those who practice divination and try to communicate with the dead. This did not stop King Saul from having the witch of Endor call up the ghost of the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 8:24-25). On the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah.
Halloween was the church’s not too successful attempt to baptize a pagan holiday, but the attempt was a worthy one. In church, we sing about the “mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.” Their presence and influence are still felt powerfully among us. It comes to mind even as we remember their names: Mary Rissew, Ann Lambert, Eunie Farrington, Wilma Jarrett, Frank Hilton, Ralph Harper, and many, many more.
In church, we are continually about “waking the dead” for they are not really dead. Jesus said of God, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." ---and to us as well.
©2007 C. David Hess