“The deeper the sorrow, the greater the joy.” -William Blake
Over the past few weeks I’ve felt deep sorrow and great joy. Deep sorrow and grief were expected but I did not know that I could also feel joy in the wake of the death of my father.
On the day that Dad died, our family gathered to comfort each other and grieve together. We held each other and we cried. My sister and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning weeping for hours as we drank wine together. The depth of our grief seemed limitless. The next day I was miserable, hungover from grief and wine. The sorrow stayed with me up until the day of the funeral. What happened after the funeral was unexpected. Hundreds of people came to the service and afterwards, members of my family greeted each one. I felt the genuine love of those who loved my father and of those who love me. They looked into my eyes with tears of compassion. They hugged me with warmth and love. We stood there for well over an hour, but time stood still as we took in the overwhelming outpouring of love and compassion. When the last person walked away I noticed an uplifted, joyful feeling in my heart. Family and friends met back at our house to gather once again. I walked in to find the place filled with food, drink and flowers – something that my dear neighbors had set up for us. The mood was light as we talked of the wonderful service, and the outpouring of love and support. My sister-in-law Bette brought some music to share; Lyle Lovett’s song about a funeral, “Since the Last Time.” She mentioned that Dad couldn’t help but start dancing when she had played it for him one day last year. That was not surprising. Dad loved to dance. We were all listening as the song played. It started off slowly. The lyrics were great. We were laughing. As the tempo sped up, Mike, Meg (my brother and sister) and I started moving. We couldn’t stop ourselves. No doubt, we have inherited Dad’s love of dancing. The three of us moved close to each other as we danced. It was like we were in another world there, just the three of us. We held our hands together and raised them up as we cried together with grief and joy, singing “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” Our faces held close as our tears and breath mixed, singing out in gratefulness and in joy for our father’s life and our own lives.
We welcomed the joy we felt in the midst of our grief. And somehow we knew that Dad was there, dancing right along with us in that moment. My hope is that along with the sadness of missing our Dad here in the physical world, we can continue to dance and to feel the joy of his presence.
Photo above: Len “Jiggs” Talley at the 2010 4th of July celebration, Virginia Beach, Va