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For Those Who Grieve

While most of this site is fun and games, the truth is that tragedy strikes and there is no consolation. The loved one that is gone is not replaceable. No amount of perspective or optimism or healing or time can change that. No eight billion people can substitute for the lost one.

Underlying the playfulness of this website is the constant awareness that life is ephemeral, unique and precious even in its redundancy and ubiquity. There is an urgent need to safeguard that life, to resolve the conflicts that are most dangerous, to decatastrophize, to insure that as many days as possible are spent in the conscious love and enjoyment of those you have.

But at some point all of these labors are in vain. And each one goes to their final destination. Perhaps we will all be resurrected in glory, or perhaps we get reincarnated, or perhaps we should just cross that bridge when we get there.

The following are poems, songs, books and movies that have given me comfort in times of sadness and sadness in times of comfort. Some are cathartic, and if you weren't sad to begin with, you will go there and be there. When you are ready to leave, you can put it aside. But it is always there for you. A place to be sad, bereft and inconsolable.


"I guess it never hurts to hurt sometimes", a song by The Oak Ridge Boys includes the lyrics: "You try and hold on to the moment, but time won't let you stay, and for every step you take, you lose something on the way. Is this all we get to keep, as the years go drifting by? Just the memory of all the days gone by. Oh you're always in my heart..."

An amazing French movie: Life and Nothing But (1991) - French, English subtitles aka: Vie et rien d'autre, La (1989) Directed by Bertrand Tavernier, is about a man whose job it is after World War II to account for all the dead soldiers. He's a statistician, and he needs to make sure every body is repatriated with its family. His nemesis is a man searching the battlefields for a body which can't be identified, which they need for the "Tomb of the unknown soldier". This movie helps you realize every soldier is known, loved and missed.

There's a lot more I will soon include here. A book, "Loss and Change", the album "Yellow Moon" by the Neville Brothers because of the undertaker song, the movie "Shadowlands" about C.S. Lewis and his wife Joy dying of cancer, the movies "Truly Madly Deeply", and "All About My Mother", and so on. So many people have been in that greiving space. You are not alone.

And here are the poems referred to above:

"What I Must Tell Myself"

Excerpt from a poem by David Whyte from his book, House of Belonging. This poem also talks about migration, which is becoming a theme of mine for life. Let's get simorganized.

Watching the geese
go south I find
even in silence
and even in stillness
even in my home
without a thought
or a movement
I am part
of a great migration
that will take me to another place.

And though all the things I love
may pass away and
the great family of things and people
I have made around me
will see me go,
I feel them living in me
like a great gathering
ready to reach a greater home.

When one thing dies all things
die together, and must live again
in a different way,
when one thing
is missing everything is missing,
and must be found again
in a new whole
and everything wants to be complete,
everything wants to go home
and the geese travelling south
are like the shadow of my breath
flying into the darkness
on great heart-beats
to an unknown land where I belong.

This morning they have
found me,
full of faith,
like a blind child,
nestled in their feathers,
following the great coast of the wind
to a home I cannot see.

"P.S. You Rock My World"

From Electro-Shock Blues by the Eels. They also have a song, "Last Stop, This Town" which has the lyrics "You're dead, but the world keeps spinning, take a spin through the world you left. It's getting dark, a little too early, are you missing the dearly bereft?" which is one of my all time favorite songs. Please play it at my funeral.

PS You Rock My World
Lyrics by The Eels from their album Electro-Shock Blues

I was at a funeral the day I realized
I wanted to spend my life with you
Sitting down on the steps at the
old post office
the flag was flying at half-mast
And I was thinkin' bout how
everyone is dying
And maybe it's time
to live

I don't know where we're going
I don't know what we'll do

Walked in to the Thrif-tee
Saw the man with the hollow eyes
who didn't give me all my change
But it didn't bother me this time
'cause I know I've only got
this moment
And it's good
I went to the gas station
Old woman honked her horn
Waiting for me to fix her car

I don't know where we're going
I don't know what we'll do

Laying in bed tonight I was thinking
and listening to all the dogs
and the sirens and the shots
And how a careful man tries
to dodge the bullets
While a happy man takes a walk

And maybe it's time to live.

Bat out of Hell

Meatloaf sings this song. Here are the lyrics. I'm working at my computer now and it popped up on my itunes. Reminds me of an Old Testament ("OT") Professor at Fuller Seminary who once said that at his funeral he would like this song to be played. The seminarians were, naturally, surprised by this. They demanded explanation. It came to something like this: Apparently a distinguished person in the church had passed away. The OT Prof opened the paper to read his obituary. It said, so and so "slipped quietly into the night/arms of the lord" or some such (I forget the exact quote).

What disturbed the OT Prof was "slipping" and "quietly". He said when he dies, he hopes to go depart...well, "Like a bat out of hell, I'll be gone before the morning comes." The chorus ends with: "Like a sinner before the gates of heaven - I'll come crawling on back to you." Which, come to think of it, is a fitting lyric for a Christian. The song also says "And I know that I’m damned if I never get out. And maybe I’m damned if I do. But with any other beat I got left in my heart. You know I’d rather be damned with you." Fascinating theological implications with this song choice.

I had never listened to the lyrics. After this I downloaded the song and started to listening to "Bat out of Hell." Shortly thereafter, I discovered that, randomly, "Bat out of Hell" was my Sister's two sons (ages 3 & 5) current favorite song, much to her husband's alarm.

You saw a fire

For those who need comfort about the End of the World. This really belongs in the Apocalypse section, but I was truly feeling bereft about the whole global destruction story, so this was of immense comfort to me.

You Saw a Fire
Poem by Jalal al din Rumi, Poem #88 in "Mystical Poems of Rumi" translated from the Persian by A. J. Arberry.

That Joseph handsome of cheek has come,
that Jesus of the age has come;
That banner of a hundred thousand victories has come
fluttering over the cavalcade of spring.
You whose business it is to bring the dead to life,
arise, for the day of work has come.
The lion which seizes lions a-hunting
has come into the meadowland raging drunk.
Yesterday and the day before have departed;
seize the cash, for that coin of fair assay has come.
This city today is like paradise;
it is saying, "The Prince has come."

Beat the drum, for it is the day of festival;
be joyous, for the Friend has come.
A moon has lifted its head out of the unseen,
in comparison with which this moon has become as dust;
Because of the beauty of that soul's repose,
the whole world has become restless.
Take heed, spread open the skirt of love,
for sprinkling has come from the ninth heaven.
O exile bird with cut pinions,
in the place of two wings four have come.
Ho, heart bound in breast, open,
for that lost one has come into your bosom.
Foot, come and stamp foot,
for that illustrious cupbearer has come.
Speak not of the old man, for he has become young,
and speak not of yesteryear, for the Friend has come.

You said, "What excuse shall I utter to the king?"
The king himself has come making excuses.
You said, "Whither shall I escape out of his hand?"
His hand has come bringing all succor.
You saw a fire, and light has come;
you saw blood, and red wine has come.
That one who was fleeing from his own fortune, having fled,
has come back shamefaced.
Be silent, and count not his graces;
an innumerable grace it is that has come.


Count not his Graces. Ajaban L'helmellah.



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