Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tribulation and Triumph

Murder in our community, a most heinous event. It rocks us to our very souls. When we know the people affected by the murder, we take it personally. Perhaps we did not really know the victim but we know her mother, her grandfather, her aunt, her cousin, and we really feel for them. The loss, the tragedy, the waste of it all, the devastation, the violation. We cry tears that sneak down our cheeks and we try not to sob or sniff loudly and have others spy on our show of sorrow.

Yet in the wake of the murder...the death, the mother smiles and thanks the people who have come to the funeral. Heartfelt embraces, tears, whispered words of love and encouragement. In the midst of such a loss, love emerges from the ashes of devastation and fills us with hope that there is indeed a God.

In the Hawaiian tradition, we eat together after the funeral. Cooking, eating, and talking are all forms of love. We sit together and talk, perhaps of other things, and yet, we secretly stash the thought that as soon as we leave the funeral, we will go home and tell our kids, our loved ones, "I love you." Sometimes if we are lucky, someone starts strumming on the ukulele, is joined by someone on the guitar and the music washes away our tears. As the sweet music echoes, someone's aunty stands up to do an impromptu hula. All acts of love in the stream of things. Ending off the event by having dessert washes away the bitterness with dark chocolate and luscious cherries, flavor-packed carrot cake topped off with cream cheese frosting, butter mochi - chewy and creamy.

Going to a Chinese funeral is an adventure. With the Buddhist priests' cymbals and bells clanging, the monotone chanting, the clouds of incense smoke are new experiences for the country jacks from Lahaina. We go outside to burn fake money, paper clothing, a paper car, a paper boat, all things needed by the deceased in the underworld. Chinese like to be prepared. After the funeral, we eat dim sum, luscious pockets of pork, shrimp, and crab with hot mustard sauce, and fragrant hot tea. We eat coconut candy before we leave, the sweetness to combat sorrow.

No matter what culture, a funeral brings together loved ones...ancient animosities are put aside, past injustices are forgotten, we focus on the beautiful memories, and live in the present. In the midst of sorrow and tribulation, love is showered down upon us, washing away the tears, and filling us with gratitude and hope for the future.

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