It has been a week today since our dear congregant died, a week of getting used to having a large hole in our lives, a week of focusing on a religious service that would somehow immortalize his memory and comfort his survivors, a week of listening and talking and writing and thinking about the man and the qualities that epitomize his character and his life. And yesterday, hundreds of folks came together to celebrate his life and mourn his death.
The family had asked friends, a musical group called Balkan Cabaret, to supply music for the memorial service and as I listened to the melodic yet minor harmonies of this plaintive music, I found it just right for the occasion. Crying and laughing in the same moment, the music mirrored the mood of the ceremony and enhanced the significance of what we were doing.
The service proceeded smoothly, many had opportunities to share stories of their friend and family member, and there was a great deal of laughter in addition to the sorrow and tears. When I left the reception hall hours later, Balkan Cabaret was playing and a long line of dancers was stepping serenely to the music, the bereaved wife in the middle, supported by her friends and family members, a look of weary calm on her face.
I am always struck by how important it is to celebrate life and all its twists and turns: as it begins, as it moves through passage after passage, and then finally, as it ends. It is how we create and preserve the meaning of our human existence, how we make connections with one another in joy and in grief, and how we perceive our relationship to the mysteries we seek to understand.