Joy and Sorrow
We had my Aunt Val’s memorial service yesterday. It was really wonderful. We had it at her son’s house. The whole family gathered in his living room, and we all just shared stories and memories of her. It was the most perfect memorial service I’ve ever been to. See, I think that a service should reflect the person you’re (or yr, if you’re a hipster) remembering. I’ve been to so many funerals and memorials, where they have little or nothing to do with the memory of the deceased…and I always leave feeling cheated. But I really didn’t feel that way. All of us, just sitting in the living room, remembering how wonderful she was, and how special she made each person feel…
My mom had asked me if I wanted to say anything, and I told her that I would, but I just didn’t want to say, “Me, too.” So I looked through my bookshelf, trying to find someone else’s words that I could use to express the dichotomy within me: I feel like I should have this debilitating sadness. My Aunt Val was so important to me, that I feel like I shouldn’t be able to do anything but sob and grieve over her loss…but when I think of her, I feel happy, remembering all the cool things we did together, and what a simply amazing woman she was…the only time I’ve felt that crushing sadness was last night. I woke up in the middle of the night, with a start, thinking “Oh my god. Aunt Val is really, truly, gone.” It took me close to 2 hours to fall back asleep.
So I’m looking through my bookshelf, and all I have is Shakespeare (too flowery) and Wilde (not exactly appropriate for a memorial)…then I see, tucked in between my “Tao Te Ching” and my “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, “The Prophet”, by Kahlil Gibran. It belonged to my Aunt Val, and she loaned it to me about 2 years ago. I remembered that it was so important to her, and I looked though it, to see if I could find something that was appropriate…and I did. I read the following, from a chapter entitled “Joy and Sorrow”:
Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
My Aunt Val was my delight.