Mourning ’til Morning

Centennial Thoughts on a Half Century.

I can’t easily describe the heaviness of waiting for my 50th birthday celebration, or the exuberant joy of its final arrival; but in this 100th edition of Rejoice!  I shall try and do both.

The event had grown monstrously in my thoughts for months. Plans were being laid by my family and I knew little of anything; but being the erstwhile controller of all things familial I could not stop obsessing over the small and large details that might or might not have been considered.  I kept my peace (mostly) but the inner monster was growing tentacles.  Three weeks before the big day we finally broke ground on the Coliseum, our accessible bathroom reno; on the same day that I went into hospital.  Finally the eve of the long-awaited Birthday Party arrived, and with it a flurry of email and Facebook apologies from family and friends.  More than one message contained the saddest news of events preventing dearest friends from attending.   Just who would be there in a few hours time was a closely kept secret; all I had was a growing list of those who would not!

The builders had been contracted to vacate the Coliseum two days earlier, leaving it in semi-functional order (read: “flushable loo”) to ease the pressure on our household which would soon peak at 12 in residence and twice as many visitors.  But things dragged out, and late on Birthday-Eve a problem emerged with the placement of plumbing fittings that required yet another conference with the builder.  I was FINE with everything! Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. 

Then the family started to arrive; and in a house full of laughter and loud conversation I felt too alone. I can sustain a typed and whispered conversation with one or two, but a roomful or a tableful can be an unworkable dynamic. It was boisterous and chaotic. Bedrooms were being shuffled for new arrivals and there was nowhere to hide.  Late in the evening I retreated to the unfinished rooms in a horrible exhaustion.  I don’t think that I had felt more alienated or alone in all my life. It was just a party, (for goodness sake!), but emotions are often insensitive to the truth.  And parties have their problems.  Parties are happy.  People bubble.  Sadness is forbidden, sorrow anathema.

Saturday dawned with all of Friday’s angst.  And more: more emails, more rellies, more noise and more fun, more reasons to hide.  But the hours of celebration finally arrived.  Good, life-filled hours, crammed with earnest and perfect words shared between a few or with many.  Time flew in a dream-like montage of conversation, recollection, laughter, hope and joy. Such days provide one of life’s very rare opportunities for honesty.  Not old fashioned fair-trading; but the pure, endangered quality of open-heart honesty where we say things to one another that actually matter. All seems light, even the deep places of our hearts are open to the touch of human love.   Speak this way between Monday and Friday and you risk exposure as an intense freak, but now and then on a special weekend sincerity and love come home, the veils are drawn back, and we love one other.   

Is Friday night a necessary part of Saturday morning?  My dilemma is that I cannot lose Friday, and I will not lose Saturday.  How do we engage in sorrow and in celebration with equal integrity?  Friday and Saturday are inseparable and yet we have language only for one.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Christian world, where the good times are continually trumpeted (and expected) and where the biblical songs of lament were long ago shed from our books.   Our Australian culture does not have a language for loss either; and so we pursue fun as a god and medicate ourselves in innumerable ways when the quarry proves elusive. We have lost the ability to weep with those who weep; and our world is poorer for the shallowness we have embraced.

On the last night of my father’s weeklong visit to Paradise we were listing to the radio between relaxed breaks of chatter.  Handel’s captivating, aching Rinaldo Aria, Lascia ch’io pianga (Let me weep) was playing on the radio during one of the gradually lengthening breaks in our conversation.  The Italian lyrics in this haunting piece were quite unknown to me, but I later found this translation:

Lascia ch’io pianga la dura sorte,
E che sospiri la libertà!
E che sospiri, e che sospiri la libertà!
Lascia ch’io pianga la dura sorte,
E che sospiri la libertà!

Let me weep over my cruel fate,
And that I long for freedom!
And that I long, and that I long for freedom!
Let me weep over my cruel fate,
And that I long for freedom!

Night gives way to Day.  Dark is always broken by Dawn.  This is not cliché or a fridge-magnet aphorism.  My own Friday and Saturday came in an order which is to me an absolute tenet of faith. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”.  This simple relationship is undergirded by the very core of orthodox Christian faith. “Where, O death, is your sting?” Unlike the chicken and egg conundrum, grief and joy exist in an absolute structure of resolution. The former will always be resolved by the latter, grieving gives way to joy, as it was in the beginning, is now and always shall be, world without end, Amen!

This is why I say, with faith,



PS:  Forty Nine and Seventy-One Seventy-Thirds. 
Seventy-Two on Wednesday!



One thought on “Mourning ’til Morning

  1. Sharon

    Roderick, I’ve been thinking that without the darkness how could we really experience Light….with this disease, because we are losing parts of ourselves, we come to appreciate them more than others who take it all for granted. I did once. Now I am grateful that I can take a few steps, say a few words, eat at table, even breathing is not for granted. I know your sorrow and angst…but also your joy! Thanks for sharing.

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