This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come;
send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come quickly
and wail over us
till our eyes overflow with tears
and water streams from our eyelids.”
Jeremiah 9:17-18 (NIV)
I love the photo that I’ve featured on this post. It was taken after my mom’s funeral two weeks ago. The thing that I love about it is the sincere joy my siblings and our dad were feeling despite the occasion. In my eulogy, I talked of the ways that I observed her continually bearing the fruit of the Spirit in her life and daily actions. She was a woman of simple and absolutely sincere faith.
In her final days, I learned a tremendous amount about the physical, mental, and spiritual process of death from the hospice nurses who lovingly cared for her. I also learned a lot from @hospicenursejulie on Instagram and Facebook (or hospicenursejulie.com) and I’d recommend that anyone with a loved one nearing death follow her. Her short videos were both instructive and reassuring for me and my family in the final months of mom’s life.
One of the things I learned was that whoever a person is at their core, their true self, is what comes out in the end. I asked a psychologist friend about this and he confirmed it. As the body dies, he explained, there is no energy to maintain any “false self” charades that a person may have put forward their whole lives to hide their “true self.” I saw one video from a death doula who had just been with a family through the death of a person who was a true narcissist. Even as an experienced expert, she was obiously shaken by the toxic spirit and venomous words that poured out of the deceased in their final hours. She ended with a recommendation that family members get counseling before an unhealthy person like that begins the descent to death.
My mother’s true-self was evident in her death despite the fact that Alzheimer’s Disease had wreaked havoc on her mind and body for over ten years. I’m happy to say that it was nothing like what I just described. In her final days, her moments of consciousness were few, but she was still playful constantly making us and those caring for her laugh. The hospice nurses and caregivers loved her. I don’t know how many times we heard, “She’s one of my favorites!” Her death was simple, quiet, and humble. It ended with a gentle whisper of breath and my dad saying, “I think she’s gone.” That was my mother.
It is a holy moment when there’s suddenly one less person in the room than there was a moment before.
I couldn’t help but think of my mother as I read about God telling the prophet Jeremiah to “call for the wailing women” in today’s chapter. Professional mourners were an ever-present part of the landscape in the ancient near-east, and the tradition continues in many mideastern cultures today. Women are paid to gather, wail, cry, sing dirges, and improvise signs of grief for one who has passed. Grief is not just a natural emotional reaction but a ritual production. God’s instruction for Jeremiah to call them was a powerful metaphorical message that would have resonated with his audience. Calling for them to lament the impending deaths that Jeremiah is prophetically assuring his listeners will happen provides a visual word picture of how serious his prescient laments really are.
This contrasts so sharply with my experience of mom’s death. Yes, I’m going to miss her. Yes, there is a sadness in the reality that the woman who gave me life, who nurtured me, and who was always present when I needed her is suddenly not here. At the same time, I truly believe what I say I believe. She really is in a better place and I wouldn’t wish her back, trapped inside the frail prison of her Alzheimer’s riddled brain and body. I feel a very real peace with her passing.
The ancient sage of Ecclesiastes said that there “is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” As a disciple of Jesus, I find that those contrasting times can also happen simultaneously. Just as Jesus said,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3 (NIV)
Our family’s celebration of mom just two weeks ago was filled with more laughter than tears, more joy than sorrow, more peace than pain. For me, that is a testimony of both faith in Jesus, and the true-self my mother’s faith led her to be each day of her earthly journey. In that, I can laugh and dance a jig.
Professional mourners need not apply.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.
2 thoughts on “Mourners Need Not Apply”
Quite a legacy!
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An old Irish tune came to mind: “All God’s children got a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher, some sing out loud on a telephone wire, some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got.”
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