This piece was originally published on tumblr here in February 2014.
A reading from the prophet Isaiah (25:6-9)
On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food.
On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death forever.
The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek,
he will take away his people’s shame everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said.
See, this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation,
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.
We exult and we rejoice that he has saved us.
This is the word of the Lord.
This year my grandmother died, and I was asked to do a reading at the funeral mass. As usual I tried to get out of it, but no luck. I’m not religious, but if it was going to help I figured I could just get through it.
When I got up to do the reading, I was already a little emotional from seeing other people crying. I started off all right but halfway through I couldn’t take it any more. I didn’t believe any of the words I was saying. Something about Jesus, and how he would destroy death and save everyone who was in pain. Not only do I not believe that, but I think it’s insulting to everyone else who DOES believe that for me to be the voice of those words. I lost it at “he will destroy death forever”, because that’s just a blatant lie, whether you’re religious or not, and it seems so wrong to tell grieving people something like that. And then it got even worse, as the reading proclaims, “the Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek.”
I’ve spent more days this year crying than NOT crying, and I can’t possibly convey how much I would like to believe that. But the thing is, no one is there to wipe away my tears. There’s nothing that anyone could ever say that will make me believe that. So I cried not just for my grandmother but for everyone and everything I have lost in the past year. There has been so much. People that I have loved with all my heart, and in one case more, have walked away from me like it was nothing. They’ve kicked me when I was already down, refused to help when I reached out. I’ve never been able to make anyone else understand that pain.
But if the rest of my family is to be believed, for about two minutes an entire church cried with me. They may not have known or understood why I was really crying but everyone understands loss and grief. For two minutes I got to show a room full of people how much I am truly hurting, even though it was unintentional, and instead of saying “why” or “don’t be sad” they felt my pain too and maybe that was it, or maybe they said “it’s really hard” or “it’s okay.”
So I stood on a glorified stage and cried under bright lights while everyone watched and then I stumbled and choked my way through the rest of the reading. I said “THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD” angrily and stomped off the altar back to my pew where I proceeded to have a miniature panic attack. It was halfway through the service before I calmed down enough to stop crying and stop shaking. My mom kept pressing down on my legs so that I wouldn’t shake the rest of the bench my family was sitting on.
I was completely mortified at having broken my reputation of being sensible and unemotional (at least in front of people) and I thought for sure people would tease me about it. I comforted myself with the fact that at least no one from outside of the family would ever know about it.
But I couldn’t see past my own tears. I had no idea until later that when I cried everyone else cried too. I am thankful for the people who never mentioned it, and I’m even more thankful for the people who said nice things. I’m thankful for my brother who (so far) hasn’t used this moment to humiliate me for the rest of my life, even though that’s normally something he would totally do. I’m thankful for my mom who let me tell her why I was really crying even though she didn’t get it. Most of all I’m thankful for my dad who said as I was leaving to go home, “Thank you for making an entire church cry.”
After that I saw things differently – how magical is it to connect with people on that level? I have been struggling for so long to make people understand how I am feeling. Maybe there is always some good hiding in these terrible situations, even when we can’t see it ourselves. I’d so much rather own a powerful moment like that than allow it to embarrass me, as if showing weakness (whether it’s easily understandable to others or not) is a bad thing. I should know better than that.