by Elizabeth de Barros
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I can still picture myself standing next to my mother in front of that big heavy door. What I remember most, though, is that it was locked shut. Held hostage in a vacuum of silence, we stood there, uncertain. She was vague, the moment hesitant; something told me a profound mystery was happening in the other room. Later, I learned four was considered much too young to see my great-grandmother lying dead inside a casket. It was a serious time, when mourners gathered to pay their respects. I wouldn’t understand.
Now, four decades later, I see how this memory has shaped me. The house of mourning is where I dwell. It is what I do.
I’m wired to go about mourning for so many things, I multitask. In winter, I mourn for spring. In summer, I mourn for fall. Holidays —same thing. I’ve mourned over each phase of life, including those of my children and others I love. Always anticipating the future, I’ve been cut from a cloth that deals in the abstract, knowing that laughter is just a tear away from crying. Everything is passing away— at least everything that can be seen. Why hold on?
I shed tears for those who have no hope, I pain over fools who forget God. I grieve for those who have no faith and for the rebellion that weighs heavily upon the earth. I cry for my children, in that they win Christ, while I sweat it out in the trenches, teaching them how to run so as to get the prize. I weep for the crucified One; I wail for His glory.
But it’s not something I do as some act of piety to try to get God’s attention. No, I mourn because He’s gotten mine. History tells tales of paid mourners driven by banal motives, but I’ve received a gospel that says He’s returning; I will mourn until He comes.
As much as I keep busy at this vocation, it is lonely. I would invite others to join me, but it’s a hard business. Besides, everyone knows grief is a private affair.
Sometimes I wonder how all this sorrow hasn’t swallowed me up. But now I understand what my then four-year old mind could not. In Christ, death is a door unlocked and a mystery solved. It’s been swallowed up.
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