Years ago at a funeral, when someone wiped away a tear in embarrassment, the Rabbi facilitating remarked, “Tears are expressions of our love. It is the most natural thing in the world to cry. It reflects how much we cared.” 6’4″ and built like a giant, he had a soft European accent and the kindest demeanor. To witness such a physical representation of masculinity endorse tears was touching.
Too often, we judge our tears thinking them a sign of weakness or indulgence.
My grandmother has never been one to cry much. Raised on a farm with only brothers, my grandmother’s life wasn’t necessarily easy. She talks about how she wasn’t allowed to hang around where the male farm hands were working because she would hear them cussing, yet she cooked for them. When a baby horse was separated from its mother, my grandmother observed the pony’s sadness and heard the animal whine. She was told that horses don’t have feelings. She knew differently, yet nonetheless, adopted the stoicism of farm living. Although tender, she has always expressed more thanks than tears and has maintained her sense of humor. At 95 she still thanks the Lord for another day of good health, although she was just placed on hospice care.
Yesterday, as I looked out the window of my hotel, which overlooks a baseball field, I noticed a golden lab running around as someone mowed the greens. The dog exuded pure joy. Despite my tears at the news of my grandmother’s change in condition, I had to smile despite myself. Dogs will run and play and suns will rise and set no matter what is happening. Life is always in a state of perpetual moving on. Yet I think of my grandmother’s observation and knowledge that the pony missed his mother. “I knew from then on that animals have feelings,” she once told me. Loss impacts our hearts whether we are humans, horses or dogs.
“Tears are expressions of our love,” the Rabbi told us. “You should never be ashamed.”