Saturday, September 18, 2010

laughter in tears

A week ago my great-uncle Kenny died.

It's ok - he was old and sick. I didn't know him well. But I attended his funeral on Wednesday. And at the service there were 4 new babies. Ezekiel was one of them. I always find something striking about the contrast of death and new life. I looked down at my sleeping son and thought about how his life is just beginning, while a few rows in front of us my family members sat mourning the loss of a loved one who had lived many many years.

And while the priest droned on I started singing in my head the lyrics of the song "Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be..." I thought about how Aunt Anita (his widow) probably never really thought this day would come. We all know death is imminent and absolute. But as a wife I never consider that some day... could be any day... one of us will leave the other. There will most likely be someone left behind to mourn. As a younger person observing the funeral from the back of the room I couldn't help but wonder if all this would take on an entirely different meaning if I were, say, in my fifties, or sixties. Knowing that the older I get the closer I come to being the one sitting in that front row, receiving condolences from each person who files past me. I know where my eternity will be spent and I am not afraid of death. But I cannot imagine "growing old along" with my husband, only to find myself the one left behind in the end.

With the reality of death hanging heavily above us all that day, we headed over to my grandparents house for a bereavement dinner. By the time we gathered there the sadness had dissipated a bit and we were enjoying family time.

As always, the baby needed to be fed. And I, with the milk supply to satisfy him, took a seat in the comfy chair to feed him. After filling his tummy he looked up at me and grinned a deep dimple grin, milk spilling out the side of his mouth. It's one of my favorite moments between us. Knowing that he's happy and full and that I had something to do with that. But then... magic happened! My mom walked up and stroked his cheek with her finger. And when she did he laughed. A full belly laugh that melted my heart.

I think it was perfectly fitting that Ezekiel laughed for the first time at uncle Kenny's wake. That little giggle was just what all of us had needed that afternoon in the midst of all the heaviness. Tender mercies, indeed.

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