When Babies Giggle at Funerals
A writer essentially says the same thing over and over again, in different ways, like a chef perfecting a recipe, or an athlete practicing various techniques on the same field. Haven’t you noticed? There is nothing new under the sun, only us Dustlings - as my husband would say - using our fingers to paint in the sand. To carve out of soap or stone what we see around us. To mimic the sound of a nightingale in the form of a poem or a sermon. We are not creators as much as we are observers of what has already been formed by God.
This morning, I am listening to the sound of snow melt. It gathers into icy pools in our rooftop gutters, then splashes onto the cement path outside our front door. In a month or two, this water will drip into icicles, surrounding our house with sharp, frozen, fencing. Winter is gorgeous here. It is silent in the way only snow is silent. But it is also cold for someone who grew up in the Californian sunshine, like me, for someone who appears to be solar-powered. No matter how long I sit next to the “Happy Lamp” we ordered on Amazon, or how many vitamin D supplements I take, my body gets heavy in the winter.
Winter in Iowa is both cozy and achy. Beautiful and sad. I love our warm house, and writing from our couch with a buffalo blanket and hot coffee, but I also struggle to fight off the winter blues. As a writer, I will always return to the paradox of suffering and joy; pleasure and pain. The way grief and hope hold hands in the morning cold. This tension will never stop fascinating me, confusing me, or stopping me in my tracks. In my collection of poems, Two Funerals, Then Easter, I wrote a poem entitled Tangled, that reads:
When will you realize, oh my soul,
that there will always be a child
born on the same day that
someone else dies?
That it is not selfish to be happy,
even with wreckage
in your rear-view?
That it is not within your power,
to untangle joy from pain?
Hope in God, oh my soul.
Bless His holy name.
And that’s what I will always write about. How, during the reading of a eulogy at a funeral, a baby might giggle. And, for a moment, everyone is distracted by this interruption of joy - of life - inserting itself into dark spaces. We can’t anticipate pain thoroughly enough to avoid it. But neither can we escape the kind of laughter that leaves us out of breath. And there is something so mysterious about that. So intricate, that it might take a lifetime to unravel.
Listen to this sketch