We all have that friend who has a joke for every occasion. The friend who never learned the lesson that in life, there is a time for everything. I once attended a funeral. It was a friend who had died suddenly, and since I did not know the other mourners well, I was somewhat relieved to see this person. She signalled to me to come sit beside her and I did so. But after some minutes in which time, she had managed to inform me all about the medical complications that had led to his unfortunate end, she added an aside that I pretended not to understand. She had made a joke about the procedure that ended our mutual friend’s life. Inside my head, I pushed down the disbelief and told myself, surely she did not mean it that way. But she did. Noticing that I was stoic-faced, she tried her luck again in a whispered sentence, raising her right hand to cover one side of her face. This time she had made a joke quite blatantly. I did not even want to smile politely. Shocked and disgusted, I made an excuse and escaped her company. In our tribal culture, making jokes at a funeral is considered very inconsiderate of the feelings of the bereaved family.
There is a time for everything. There is no need to garner attention to yourself all the time by way of cracking a joke at the most inappropriate moments. Weep with those who weep, and laugh with those who laugh. I think there is nothing else to do but avoid people who do not understand this. We are not under obligation to laugh when it is socially and culturally inappropriate. I am not saying, go around with a dour face. But we probably need to learn the appropriateness of things all over again. In the room where the body was laid out, were the family members of our friend, grieved beyond comfort. I use the word grief, not sadness. For death is full of grief. At such times, out of respect for the dead, and even more out of respect for the feelings of the bereaved, we try to show our empathy, not indulge in mirth. It might be better not to attend a funeral if you cannot perform that simple humane action.
The summer of our lives
We are in the latter half of summer, and we still haven’t done complaining. It is too hot, it is too rain, it is too stone, it is too paper, it is scissors. Like cantankerous children who want to find fault with everything. This side of eternity, life is just one short season. A summer too brief that might suddenly be gone filled with regret. It is too short to waste time hating. A really wise teacher says, ‘Negativity and hating people shuts off the flow of God’s love.’ More than half our lives have been wasted on negative things – gossiping, making fun of others, hating people who spread mean stories about us, true or not, complaining about almost anything. Too much toxicity has been allowed to seep into our lives via our negative attitudes.We also have to admit that we are very short-sighted. We often cannot see much beyond the next week, or the coming month or year. Many times, we forget to live on earth with eternity in mind. I think life on earth is such a forgotten gift – we forget it is a gift. We take it for granted, and expect to see another dawn without any trouble at all. What if it were suddenly over? What then? Would we complain and demand that we be given more days, more breath and more chances to live on? I think we should wake up profoundly grateful every morning for being granted the grace to live one more day. Wake up ten minutes early so you do not have to jump out of bed, and start the business of living without time for contemplation. Linger. Look at the light entering from the window and say thank you Lord. Life is not of our doing. It has a source and we ought to thank the source of life. Get up slowly, blessing yourself and everyone connected to your life. It is a mental exercise that has to be repeated several mornings before it becomes natural to us. Gratitude is a wonderful thing. It chases away dark things. It lets in the light. And we need that light now more than ever.