By: magnolia_admin | December 13, 2018
Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?
– Sylvia Dee, Arthur Kent
Most of you reading this are aware of the Southern custom regarding funeral processions: when a funeral procession comes by, if at all possible, oncoming traffic pulls to the side of the road as a gesture of respect. I’ve seen this done when it would be safer for all involved to forgo the practice for the moment, but on the whole it’s a beautiful acknowledgment of grief. It signifies our collective sorrow at a death, the community of humanity, and the need for others’ support. It speaks to our awareness of others, and our acknowledgment of their situation.
Those of us going through a period of grief stumble through our lives, wondering how the rest of the world is continuing to turn. Surely the gap is more than the earth can bear. Surely the absence of our friend, our partner, our child, will render the earth barren. And then, very slowly, the grief becomes a part of us. A smaller part. Our joy begins to grow and the sadness becomes a piece tucked into our hearts that doesn’t sit so close to the surface, cutting us open every time it’s jostled by a memory. And then a interesting thing happens. We become one of the masses of people who don’t notice that the end of the world is going on for someone else. Our own happiness mars our vision – we become blind to the suffering of others. We are no longer as sad – surely the rest of the world must be happy as well. We project our own feelings about the world onto it – our own sense of peace or unrest becomes all we see. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing – sometimes our positivity can make the world a better place. Sometimes our sadness can encourage others to open up and speak about their own sorrows. But in general being closed off from others means simply that: we go on about our days, our weeks, our years, assuming that the world exists, by and large, the way we are seeing it. When we are sad the world is ending. When we are happy the world rejoices.
I was pulling a funeral procession the other day in the hearse, led by a police car with the lights and siren on. I was a car length or so behind the police car, giving it plenty of room to make turns without being tailgated. It turned right at an intersection and before I had a chance to follow it a car pulled out in front of me. It breezed down the road ahead of the hearse, behind the police car, driving at a less than normal speed. It had, unawares, joined our funeral procession. If the individual driving had realized, I’m sure they would have been mortified, but they merely continued on their journey, eventually turning off the road, unaware that they had placed themselves in the middle of a funeral procession. How many of us, every day, go about our lives, unaware of the grief of others. We walk right in front of their unhappiness and say nothing, do nothing, to alleviate it. Our happiness blinds us – or perhaps our own sorrow blinds us, rendering us seemingly incapable of assistance. The idea is to let ourselves be useful – not to hoard our happiness or our sorrow within ourselves, but to use it in the service of others.
Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”December 13, 2018