Monday, November 21, 2005

Melancholy and Joy

I'm not melancholy by nature. Perhaps that's why I found this Chesterton quote (now Nancy Brown and Dr. Thursday are getting me into quoting GKC too!) so encouraging during a time of grief for the loss of our nephew. I came across this quote, from Orthodoxy on the Living Without Schooling blog (I know, I really need to start reading more Chesterton for myself!)...

"Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live......Joy, ..... is the gigantic secret of the Christian...."

My heart is heavy and I ACHE for my nephew's family. I confess that I haven't had a lot of experience with the loss of loved ones. A very dear aunt died this spring after a long battle with brain cancer. It was hard and sad, but we had time to say goodbye and she was surrounded by her loved ones who cared deeply about her. This unexpected death was different (although it was another tribute to the importance of family). We were immediately caught up in the busy-ness of what we had to do - prepare for the funeral, notify family and friends. Now, several weeks later, the reality is only beginning to hit.

I felt privileged to be involved with music and pictures for the funeral. I've never helped plan for a funeral before. It did strike me how important and healing faith, memories and ceremony can be. I scanned in photos with Ruben's grandparents and with his immediate family. I played slide shows on the computer to help them pick out favorite photos. It was touching to see happy memories relived and some amount of joy, I think, in recognizing what they had shared with Ruben during his lifetime.

My brother-in-law picked uplifting - mostly traditional songs for the funeral: Be Not Afraid, Amazing Grace, Ave Maria and Faith of Our Fathers. I led a small choir of other family members in the music. The Church was a lovingly remodeled (surprise!) 100+ year old church with colorful stained glass windows (nice focal points while singing), a pipe organ and wonderful acoustics. It was a privilege to be able to do something to express my love and concern for the family. But it was also hard to suddenly realize that this beautiful music would make people weep.

I was touched to see those who cared for him and how they said their goodbyes. His friends and siblings played and sang his favorite songs at the reception. People were dressed in dark suits and dresses or jeans and some sported dread-locks and face-piercings. Love and grief were universal and it was a fresh reminder to me of the meaning of the word Catholic.

I am also reminded that tragedy has touched many people this year through things like natural disaster, terrorism and war. Please pray for all who will feel the loss of loved ones keenly during the coming Christmas/holiday season.

UPDATE: Here is a beautiful piece on the Rule of St. Benedict and "having death always before one's eyes" in order to not take life for granted.

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