Saturday, April 19, 2014

Knowing When and How to Let Go

Change comes from putting aside old or outdated perceptions, memories, or beliefs and learning a new way to live with life experiences. It often takes giving something up. This is a universal principle and the reason for ceremonies and rituals. They help us to bridge the gap between the physical world which demands our attention and the spiritual one that quietly influences the material one.

My neighbor’s 80 year old father died on Friday evening. They called a family member with a car and carried the father’s body to the funeral home. They bought a coffin. Afterwards the members of the family washed and dressed the body and placed it in the coffin to be returned home. In this beach community of Honduras, it is the custom for the casket to sit open for viewing in the living room of the family home. This allows neighbors and friends to visit and say their final farewells.

The family prepared food, along with that donated by neighbors, for the guests. Everyone pulled together to help the family process through this transition. In the meanwhile, adult male members of the family went out to the cemetery to dig the grave and build a concrete crypt. All this effort of preparation is actually quite healing and offers neighbors and friends an opportunity to assist the deceased person one last time. When it is time to go to the cemetery the community walks behind a van or pickup that carries the coffin to its final home. 

The family rode with the body of their father. The coffin was placed on a prepared stand at the entrance of the cemetery for words and song. This were the family says its farewell. As they all gathered around the coffin with tear-filled eyes and bowed heads, the oldest daughter pushed forward with cries of anguish, throwing herself across the coffin. From deep within her chest came sobbing words of goodbye for her papa. I had heard of dramatic displays at funerals but this was the first time I had witnessed one. Her wailing, tears, and hanging to the coffin continued until the box was gently lowered into the ground. 

Her 3 children, faces wet and tear stained, were standing next to her. They all watched the closing of the crypt just before sunset. The woman wiped her eyes and the faces of her children. She told them that it was time to return to the house, take a shower and change their clothes. They needed to take care of grandmother. That was it. The woman knew she had done the best she knew how to do. She turned her back on the cemetery and walked with her children back to their home. It was time to look to the future.

hamster photo courtesy of New Yorker digital

cemetery photo from my personal collection