I have a young nephew named Ocean Falconer. He has special needs. He is an awesome boy. Many call him, “the Big O”. At the age of 41 on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, his dad, Blue Sky Falconer, died of cancer. Even though my nephew does not speak in full sentences, he understood completely what had happened.
(picture credit – Tom Wilson)
The day after his dad’s memorial service on Wednesday, August 3, Ocean sat down in the outside yard of his house, holding his daddy’s picture. Tears trickled down his cheeks.
In such a moment, how would you have comforted my nephew? Perhaps one could just sit down in the yard and shed a few tears, too. In times of mourning, those tears are “liquid prayers” heard by the angels and God Himself on the throne.
In the West, we are rather subdued when it comes to our mourning. As an introvert, I can actually be stone quiet. But I am deeply struck by how some in the East mourn. Where I would keep it in, they let it all out.
Those in the Bible responded to death or even to the verdict of death with sackcloth and ashes.
- “For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:11b-13).
- “When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went as far as the front of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:1-3).
I don’t know why we would think it so strange in the West to wail or to put on sackcloth and ashes when we mourn.
The closest thing to a Church in the West experience is once a year on Ash Wednesday placing a little ash mark on your forehead.
We know it is appropriate for the summer 2016 Olympians in Rio to weep or shout in the midst of triumph or defeat. So I am telling you, it is definitely OK to wail, shout, and tear your clothes in the midst of death.