About two months ago, I went to a funeral.. And I loved it.
Let me explain.
Love maybe isn’t the right word. Certainly, I felt sad and heart-broken for a family that lost a beloved son. I trembled that once again death felt all too near. I was very much reminded of my mom’s funeral just a few short months before this one. I hated how much I felt I could identify with the family sitting on the first pew of the church.
But I basked in feeling like I was finally in a situation where I wasn’t the only one grieving. I could openly cry for my friend’s son who passed away, for the family members stunned with loss and for my own personal sadness. I was no longer outnumbered. For the first time in what felt like a long, long while, I sat with the majority. I felt like I could just be sad. I was in company with those that felt the deep pain the world can cause and didn’t have to work up the energy to seem happy or joyful. For an hour, I was not alone in my grief and I could just be.
I hadn’t realized how much I felt like an outsider until that funeral. At social events, if I wasn’t talking about my mom, know she was just on the tip of my tongue. In my car, if I wasn’t listening to my mom’s favorite songs, I was surely humming them on my own. I have only been partially present for the last few months. There is always a part of my brain that my mom and her story will forever occupy. At parties or gatherings, I’ve blindly envied people who looked like they were genuinely having a good time, wholly present and engaged with the world around them.
I have learned missing someone means authentic love exists. I loved well and was well loved. At times, the love of a loved one that has passed away feels unanswered and unproductive for the distraction it leaves behind. However, I try to remember that the longing I feel and the distraction I’ve grown accustomed to remind me that while darkness feels close, it does not travel alone. Darkness and love move in tandem as the sadness of longing and missing feel like a dimmer version of love. But love — even if painful — is still love. Love overbears the dark and lingers even closer — on the tip of my tongue or the hum of my lips. Yes, my longing is painful but longing only means that I desire something that I loved and enjoyed — something what was fully good.
During the last song of that same funeral, I looked up from the music and closed my eyes. I took a deep breath in, sighed and listened. The sounds I heard so directly mimicked my feelings. I heard folks unashamedly sobbing and clutching a handful of tissues like a sturdy pillar holding them up. I saw arms around one another. I saw families standing hand in hand and I saw humans cling to other humans for comfort. It was raw.
But in the midst of the sadness and hand holding, there was certain, palpable hope. The church seemed to burst with the unwavering voices of the hopeful, as if getting the dear departed to his final resting place was determined by the strength of their song. We were singing him Home. This sound was like the climax of a great symphony performance, the Grande Finale. Even through tears and sadness, people were still singing. Even among sniffling noses and agony, I could surely make out the melody of a mighty song.
It was as if Grief were staging a take-over and Hope declared, “Not so fast.”
Gosh, it was beautiful. I think back on this memory frequently, particularly on days when I’m feeling just an extra bit of sadness. I remind myself that Sadness travels with Love. If I’m sad, I’m also loving. I’m learning love is not sing-songy and pleasant all the time. Love can be gritty, spunky and tenacious. There’s nothing delicate about it.