Burst forth, my tears, assist my forward grief - Anonymous text set to song by John Dowland (1562-1626)
Today I spent the better part of the day as a peripheral participant in the funeral of my best friend's mother. Her passing was unexpected and unique in the way all deaths are unexpected and unique and leave us wondering how the body can be brimming and then so quickly empty and become inanimate. The passage of years have inscribed in their path the commonplace reactions to the point that we find comfort in their repetition, but not today.
I did not really know her, but as I stood bathed in the waves of grief pouring out of her husband of nearly half a century, I found myself grieving alongside him. At first I dismissed my tears as simple empathy, but as I thought about it some more, I had one of those small epiphanies that seem to be part of the meagre benefits of old age: Though I truly could feel the pain of the widower, I was grieving forward: Grieving for my own death as well as the death of my own beloved, grieving for the death of my son, hopefully far in the future but nonetheless awaiting him as his birthright, grieving for the loss of this breathtakingly beautiful New England spring day that will be no longer as night descends.
As I was heading back into town to meet one of my clients, I could not shake the sadness of my realization, so instead of doing the responsible thing, I did the right thing and went home to my wife. I needed to feel her alive against me and cheat death for one more day.