Wednesday, November 13, 2013
A Community Mourning
The priest is quietly officiating, doing something important
down the front. He has a steady dignity
suitable for solemn ritual and an unaffected humour
that helps us normalise our grief. We are here together.
Fred, and the family surrounding him, are the fraught core
of our gathering. He's unsteady on his feet now, and today
he looks out questioningly from eyes still grasping
to understand: Brenda isn't coming back. She's gone.
A child faints, and there is a scuffle of activity,
but no-one minds. There are babies and small children
scattered round the church and their noise is part
of the living song we lift up to the rafters in praise.
We mourn - the ache is sharp in our chests - but the shape
of prayer, this ancient liturgy, binds us close in life.
The sacraments are not my own, but they are sacraments
and they enable my participation in community - one part
of a larger witness. When the casket leaves the church
I turn, to honour the passing of a friend. Outside,
a crush of bodies mingles in the sudden light,
conversations begin, and those heading to the cemetery depart.
I walk most of the way home - enlarged.
7 November 2013