A house of mourning
Or of mirth? Enter both. It
Will be the same door.
I am putting together a collection of haiku from the blog about grieving for my father for an upcoming issue of Catapult. I needed one more, penned on this day one year after my father passed away, to complete the piece which will appear on Friday. But needing to or wanting to produce a haiku does not usually work well for me–usually, either an image will present itself or else a short phrase, which I will then shuffle around in my mind or on a piece of paper until something satisfactory appears.
Nonetheless, I am pleased with this rather less visceral, less personal, but more philosophical piece about how to live together with one another through life and death. Indeed, it reminds me of a Punjabi proverb that Dad, himself, would often remind us about which says that it is better, if one must miss either, to be with a family in sorrow than in celebration, at their funerals rather than than at their wedding celebrations, which is perhaps itself an echo of a far more ancient bit of wisdom literature.
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
The concern of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes is more existential; the Punjabi proverb’s more social. I hope my half-wise “piece of wisdom literature” splits the difference. I am thankful to be amongst family and friends who have taken this to heart–who are there for one another in rejoicing and in sorrow, and in the mundane times in between.