A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
~ Ecclesiastes 3:4
"The real tears will come later."
Those were the words shared yesterday by the sister of one of my patients who had just died. As she sat next to the bed where her sister was still laying, holding the newest of "great greats," symbolizing that life continues to move forward, I stood and listened as she shared about grief.
She commented, "The tears of today aren't the real tears. Those will come later."
The woman shared that following her mother's death, it was a few weeks later while sitting in the dentist office that she suddenly was overwhelmed by grief and the tears came. "They all thought I was in pain and tried to hurry me to the dentist chair. I told them no. These are the tears for my mother. And I let them come."
Our understanding of grief takes many forms, and I always try to remind people that there really is no "right or wrong" way to grieve. I loved what this woman said about the tears that came later, "You just have to let them happen."
As I prayed with them, having spent time with the woman and knowing her beautiful spirit, I commented that I could just imagine her now, kicking up gold dust among the streets of gold which was welcomed with words of affirmation by those in the room. I am reminded that Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a "time for mourning and a time for dancing." It was in that moment where I realized that mourning and dancing were being done at once. Not separated, but being choreographed into a dance where the mourning and the dancing showed no clear ending or beginning. They were strung together, just as the symbol of life and death that were present with the new baby in the room, and the person who had just died.
More and more I realize that grief allows us to create our dance, while our dance creates space for our grief to be known.
In the midst of loss, and in the midst of tears, there was also an unknown joy. Dancing and mourning, laughter and grief, gladness and sadness, they all belong together in a story that makes us both cry and laugh.
That is truly the beauty of life, and that is what was so beautiful about yesterday's moment with this family. It was visibly mourning and dancing, embracing each other.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.