A season of mourning

The risk of love is loss, the price of loss is grief.

As a child, I grew to understand the high pitched, extended keening sound that came from blanket shrouded Zulu women, known in their language as “gayizaring”, came out of the depths of the souls of those grieving women.

All cultures have traditions and rituals that surround this most human of phases of life, that of death. It is certainly painful, sometimes a blessed release from suffering and, still others, a sense of peace. No matter one’s faith or religious conviction, death carries a certain weight of sadness, no matter the circumstances surrounding the passing of a loved one.

Having recently had the breath knocked out of my lungs with the tragic news of the most untimely passing of a vibrant young woman, Ali and her devoted dad, Tony, on the side of the most dangerous highways in South Africa.

This notoriously large truck-jammed N3, between the port city of Durban, KwaZulu Natal, and the economic hub of the country, Johannesburg in the Gauteng province (the old Transvaal province), has become more of a death trap than a motorway.

The reasons for this passage of national roadway’s title are numerous and certainly fodder for a ranting blog around the political corruption, theft of maintenance funds, big truck syndicates, monopolies and so much more but, that for another time.

The time now is for mourning and my observation of the comfort derived from this period.

Back to the keening and wailing of the Zulu women of my childhood on a farm in the hills. Whilst it may have held a deeply sad sound, the part that has remained with me is the solidarity of women. I recall saying to Darling, early on in our marriage, that should I ever have the misfortune of losing him, I would feel comfort, love and support if my girlfriends were to gather around me in this fashion. Perhaps without the hot blankets and the loud keening, but more with the feeling of solidarity, compassion and caring that comes from having one’s friends simply draw close to one’s side. 

Not unlike the Biblical book of Job who, after losing his entire family and livelihood, his close friends came to sit with him, in the dust, dressed in sacking, just to be with him in his pain. (After this period, his friends began talking and giving advice and they did try and dissuade him from his faith, against which he stood firm, thankfully.)

So it is, especially in the current global crisis that many, many people have had to suddenly get to grips with grief. The pain of loss is insurmountable for some and it is in these times that all one can do is to draw close and sit with them, without offering advice or platitudes – that is difficult for me, being the “fixer” sort of personality that I am but, I am learning to speak less and simply be more… It is a long, slow process.

Wrapping up with some of the best Old Testament wisdom on this subject: Ecclesiastes 3:7 “there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” which is my personal point of focus but, more fully: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 gives us all a whole lot more wisdom on our human lives, frailties and death and, it’s all good.

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