Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Comfort of Traditions

 I have thought quite a lot about comfort this week. It  has been a week filled with pain and anxiety for so many people around  the world. The mass destruction of a country in front of our eyes makes one feel so vulnerable. It has caused me to pay close attention to the things around me that give me comfort.

This week I watched as  my brother-in-law's family struggled gracefully with the loss of their Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother, the  Matriarch of their family. A passage of one generation to the next. Our generation has now donned the cloak of the elders. What a strange feeling. I've never thought of myself that way and actually I am not there yet. My Mother and Aunts and Uncles are still living late into their 80's and 90's so I have a little cushion of time to be the next generation to carry the mantle of wisdom and experience. But my brother-in-law is now one of the elders in his family. He will wear that cloak, as he does everything in his life, with dignity, responisbility and  pride. It will be safe in his hands.

 The dictionary defines "comfort" as a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants and needs , with freedom from pain and anxiety. I was struck by the comfort that traditions give to us while participating in the Greek funeral rituals. The soft chanting of four  priests, three of whom  I have known for many years, filled the air with a sense of calm.  We were all  young parents together just a few yesterdays ago. Baptisms, weddings, funerals,graduations,  anniversaries....all of life's passages.... have been shepherded by these fine men. What an honor to grow old along side them. How comforting to know that they share in the same human experience as we  and can relate on a very real basis to our cares,sorrows, vulnerabilities as well as the joy, hope and peace that we equally experience. Their voices comfort me now and I can only imagine how much comfort it has given my brother-in-law and his sister at this very difficult time in their lives.

As I sat through the funeral , being comforted by the rituals , my mind kept returning to the plight of the Japanese people . How do they receive comfort during this difficult time?  Will they receive comfort from the old traditions that have sustained them for countless generations? Times like this prove that we are all one in the human experience and that our traditions, no matter what they are, have been created from a need for freedom from pain and anxiety. We find comfort in our traditions.


Judy Hartman said...

Julie - honestly, this is such a moving post. My heart goes out to your brother in law and your whole family. I think the Japanese people do have their own traditions, as well as an innate sense of dignity which sustains them. My own parents passed away 4 years ago this spring, a month apart from each other, and I know the Catholic rituals did provide all of us with a sense of comfort and the continuity of life.

You write so beautifully, and I'm so glad you decided to create this blog!

Alfonso Cevola said...

great post sis, you inspired me to write one as well.

Yιαγιά's Afghan

angela said...

Aunt Julie, this was absolutely beautiful. thank you so much for writing it.

Tina said...

Thank you for expressing in words what I have been so blessed to experience for the last 45 years. It is so comforting particularly in a time of sorrow to have such meaningful traditions to carry you through and to know that when you pass the next generation will remember your life and pass these traditions on to their children. It is now my responsibility to teach my daughters these traditions so that the link between the past and the future is not broken. The Church was the focal part of my mother-in-law's life. Mom and Dad were members of St. Elias parish for 60 years and and integral part of that community. It was how they lived their live. and their Church and its members were always their for them through the good and bad times, through joy, sorrow,laughter and tears . Nick and I said our marriage vows there, renewed them there, our children were christened there, our children were married there, our son-in-law's became Orthodox there, and our grandchildren were christened there and served as altar boys in this same church. We are truly blessed with these beautiful traditions.