Amongst a sea of black and waves of tears, I sat on the hard, wooden pew. My hands were clasped on my lap. My heart beat was resonating all the way to my fingertips. With each beat, my soul rocked forward and back. The mortality of my own life was carried in with the coffin that we all gathered to mourn.
I knew my father would sing. I always knew. But when his voice whimpered, cracked a little, then composed again I did not know how much that would break me. He sat on the stool behind the church organ. He was there to play the hymns and the songs to farewell his friend. My father always plays the organ at church. He always sings. I always sing with him. But this time, my voice gave way to tears instead.
In my scrunched up, wet tissue I caught the tears that fell down my face. Tears that were stained with the makeup from my cheeks. I felt my strength drain. I was the brave one. I was the strong one. I was the pillar. Yet, the concrete heaviness of life and its absolute and inevitable end bore down on me.
In that moment I relinquished myself to faith. I prayed.
I prayed for the eternity of life. In each prayer that we offered for the friend we gathered to farewell, I shook in resolution of just how quintessential my parents are to me. How despite the reason and the logic that drives me every day, I will never be prepared for their passing.
I prayed for the sixteen year old boy who stood in the pew in front of me. His shoulders cradled by his mother, heaving in sorrow. He now bore the weight of losing his father. In my own twisted selfishness, I prayed that my boys never know what it is like to walk in his shoes. Not for a minute, not for a day.
I prayed for my own mortality. I prayed that life be kind, long and prosperous. And I bowed my head in gratitude for the absolute monument of blessings that I have in my life.
The voice of the priest broke my ceaseless cycle of selfish thoughts, clinging to those who I love in a desperate prayer to keep death away. The priest spoke without hesitation. He spoke with clarity. He spoke without homage to the supernatural or the divine. Instead, he spoke in simplicity about grief.
In grief we are all the same. Grief dissolves the barriers of race. Religion. Sexuality. Politics. Ethnicity. Borders. All that we define ourselves and society with are dissolved in the presence of grief. In grief we mourn, we anguish and we ache, all the same.
I watched the mother who was holding her son for almost the whole service. Yet there was another mother in the front pew. There sat an eighty-six year old woman. Weathered by life. Sobbing and heaving. Today, she had lost her son. Shattered and in pieces, she didn’t even have the strength to stand as the coffin was carried out on the shoulders of men. Instead, she sunk further into her seat and her shoulders rolled forward as she clenched her arms around her chest in an attempt to contain her grief. When a mother loses her child, she is broken in half. No matter her age.
As I leaned against the doorway into their bedroom that night, I watched my boys sleep. I wondered what grief lay ahead in their lives. Once again I prayed. I prayed that when they face those moments, they relinquish themselves to faith and find hope in humanity. In grief, we are not only the same. We are stripped bare. Exposed and vulnerable. Perhaps it is these dark moments that string together humanity, as one.