Sometimes it's best to say nothing at all. An Irish singer-songwriter, Ronan Keating, wrote and sang a love song entitled "You say it best when you say nothing at all." Keating was, of course, writing and singing about love being communicated without the use of words. Here I am writing about grief at the time of death, and really its expression in sobs and tears and gestures (like hugs and kisses) is way more effective than words, which really come later to give that grief a little shape in our minds. Speaking of death and love or love and death (perhaps the order matters?) I am reminded of the wonderful Song of Solomon or The Song of Songs which I remember studying in Scripture class over thirty years ago. It is a Biblical song about human love or more precisely, sexual love. The words that knit themselves together in my mind are "Love is as strong as death: many waters cannot quench it." My memory, obviously is somewhat flawed as these are not the exact words, though my rendering of them actually capture wholly the import of the text that actually reads:
|One of my favourite pictures of Sean Kelly (1994 - 2014) with one of his nephews - Sean was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin today, 27/09/2014 after 10 A.M. Mass in Sheriff St Church|
Song of Songs 8: 6, 7. - Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it...
I have just returned from a most painful and upsetting funeral for a recent past pupil of our school who chose to end his life by hanging himself from a tree in a park right opposite our school. The grief of his distraught family and friends was simply overwhelming to say the least. What words could capture such momentous bereavement which the pastor/curate described as a veritable "tsunami of grief." In fact the celebrant, whose name I don't know, was wonderfully prayerful, compassionate and so understanding of the needs of the young people present that it was a wonderfully fitting send off for a young man of twenty years.
We are such fragile vessels really, vessels through which the blood of life runs all too quickly, and all too often so painfully. Amid all the grief today love was simply palpable. In times of grief we come together to support one another. Before the end of the funeral Mass this wonderful priest invited all Seán's friends up around the coffin - my goodness what a wonderfully kind and intuitive thing to do. Then he incensed and blessed with holy water the coffin and the boys. Needless to say, there was not a dry eye in the church. Thank God for such good understanding pastors. They do exist and are too infrequently acknowledged for the great work and service that they render to the community. However, what I want to do now is simply append hereunder a short poem I wrote some minutes ago in memory of our former student Seán Kelly:
A short poem in our time of pain
The grief that fell upon us like a black pall
In the middle of a summery September
Was unseasonal, wholly inappropriate
To how we should feel in such sunny times.
But life has a habit of stopping us in our tracks,
Of calling us back to more important things,
Of making us think of the littleness and brittleness
Of all we construct with human hands...
Lest we become complacent, smug or self-satisfied,
As if to say we are wearing life too lightly,
That we must amid this unseasonal growth and sun
Wear heavier winter clothing weighted with our grief
At the passing of one so young, so full of life,
So full of the music that throbs at its heart –
A talent so natural and so good
Fallen unripe to the ground
Under a beautiful lonely tree:
But we came in our pain and in our brokenness
With our cards, our music and our tears
And we held each other around your coffin
And we prayed for comfort at the altar of the One
Who wept when his great friend Lazarus died –
Of the One who in innocence was crucified
Of the One who promised that life goes on –
And so we know that your spirit lives on,
That your music will never die
For you live in our hearts and souls
And smile upon us eternally.
(P.S. I have just finished writing this poem as a tribute to the late Seán Kelly, RI.P., to his dear family and his many friends. We were blessed to have known you, Seán, such a wonderful young lad. Rest in peace, Seán and stay with your friends always!)