A house of mourning – A Haiku on Ecclesiastes – Poetry on Grief

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.
-Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

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.

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8 thoughts on “A house of mourning – A Haiku on Ecclesiastes – Poetry on Grief

  1. I find this meditation particularly moving to read on the anniversary of my mother’s birth! Somehow seems a fit reminder to me of the full circle in so many ways. May your father’s memory always be a great blessing to you and yours.

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  2. Yes I see what you are saying, and i have been thinking about it.. When my best friend died a few years ago I was out here (US), she was in NZ and I was stricken, It was terribly sudden, I could not speak for two days. I could not make it to the funeral, I did not even have the extra money for the fare but I should have found it, and have always deeply regretted missing that important day of hers. I agree with your father, i had never thought of it that way and I shall never make this mistake again..Again, Neil.. c

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    • Oh, Cecilia, I am sorry that you were here when your best friend died and that you could not find a way to make it back to NZ. That must have been and continue to be hard. God bless you.

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  3. You are right about the continue bit. I just read your message and one of Her tears ran down my face. On the night she died (though i did not know she had died yet ) an owl sat outside my bedroom window and hooted for hours. I had never heard him before and He has never been back. Never, not in these two years. She died very fast, she took a cup of coffee outside to watch the morning come up, sat down on the step and then died. A tiny fatal bleed in her brain. She was only in her forties, one year younger than me. But what am i doing.. poor you, trying to grieve for your dad and here i am weeping at the screen.. sorry.. c

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    • No need to be sorry, Cecilia, please. It is quite alright. What a sudden passing. That is difficult. I hope your tears are healing and bring along with them some sweet memories. Neil

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  4. Pingback: Resources for Ecclesiastes 7:2 - 4

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