Sunday, June 03, 2007

May we all be so lucky

(Ger)Trude trimmed her hedges herself on Wednesday evening, with Memorial Day a recent memory and her 90th birthday approaching. It was as if she was putting things in order, preparing for her departure. That night she went to bed for one deep and final rest. May we all be so lucky.

Trude was my Great Aunt, and, while seeing her was not an uncommon thing as a resident of the same tiny town, I can't say I knew her by anything more than her name, our relation, and the distant but unwaveringly kind and caring demeanor characterizing her and most elderly women I've known. The details of her life story remain unpopulated in the version I hold, and, as such, the funeral was not an exceptionally emotional event. Naturally, I intend that to be understood with no disrespect and with full understanding that she, for all I have known, truly was a great woman. That said, funerals are a funny thing for those of us with an outlook hosting a belief in some wonderful afterlife rewarding a good and loving life on earth, perhaps known as Heaven. If someone with such a worldview--or, otherworldlyview--cries at a funeral, or is struck with pangs of sadness, from where can those tears be said to be falling? If it is believed that the deceased did indeed live a good and loving life, then it follows that it is believed that the deceased will enjoy their just reward after death. If this is believed, then certainly those tears cannot be shed for the deceased, even if one feels that the deceased was unable to accomplish on earth all that they intended.

What, then, is left? Tears falling in response to a reflection of one's own mortality; for the reminder of the interminably ticking clock that may prevent us from achieving all that we, ourselves, are setting out to do; selfish tears shed for the hardships that may befall us due to the death of a loved one; selfless tears of concern shed for the fear of another's emotional or physical capacity to sustain themselves through the death and mourning of their loved one; or, perhaps the most compelling: tears of frustration and shame at all that we, in our pride or fear or embarrassment, allowed to go unsaid before another's ticking clock reached its final second. Looking around at a funeral, it's pointless to speculate as to what may be the genesis of anyone's tears. We would, of course, never know.

As for the final possibility enumerated, it is interesting that the feelings that merit the greatest eloquence are the same feelings that are commonly expressed in the least eloquent way imaginable. Everyone has trouble conveying how they feel to someone they truly care about. So often when we must express ourselves as powerfully, as eloquently, and as urgently as we can, we turn to writing; we write down our feelings rather than speaking them directly to whomever we must express ourselves. We don't feel the requisite level of comfort with our emotions to verbalize them to a person's face; rather, we so often seek the shield of time by expressing ourselves in a way in which we can edit our emotions: the letter. No one except the writer knows of the mistakes and moments of imperfection in its production, and only a final product that has met the satisfaction of the writer is delivered, unlike in speech where every mistake and imperfection is immediately known to the person to whom we are speaking. Everyone should train themselves to speak with greater precision and confidence--confidence, rather than false pride, fear, or embarrassment. Yet, simultaneously, perhaps in matters of the heart, the mistakes and imperfections of the spoken thought are exceedingly valuable and telling, and, therefore, worth speaking. It could go either way.

Currently listening to: "House Gone Up in Flames" by The Nightwatchman
Previous activity: Watching some C-SPAN
Next thing on the agenda: Reading the ol' book, The Man Without Qualities

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