My Mourning

GENESIS 49:29-50:14

29Then he charged them, saying to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my ancestors – in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30in the cave in the field at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site. 31There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah – 32the field and the cave that is in it were purchased from the Hittites.” 33When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

1Then Joseph threw himself on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. 2Joseph commanded the physicians in his service to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel; 3they spent forty days in doing this, for that is the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.

4When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph addressed the household of Pharaoh, “If now I have found favor with you, please speak to Pharaoh as follows: 5My father made me swear an oath; he said, ‘I am about to die. In the tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.’ Now therefore let me go up, so that I may bury my father; then I will return.” 6Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.”

7So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. 9Both chariots and charioteers went up with him. It was a very great company. 10When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed a time of mourning for his father seven days. 11When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning on the part of the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. 12Thus his sons did for him as he had instructed them.13They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, the field near Mamre, which Abraham bought as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. 14After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.

Jacob’s death was an occasion for great sorrow for Joseph. Of course, anyone would mourn the loss of their father, but to have been absent from him for so many years under such circumstances surely added to Joseph’s grief. The Egyptians who had no relation to Jacob and no reason to care one way or the other about the passing of this Canaanite foreigner observe the funeral proceedings and are moved to the point that they set aside the place as a monument to grief within their own land. It’s like if a Syrian refugee’s pain was so moving to us that we would create a memorial on our soil to mark the occasion.

“Blessed are those who mourn,” said Jesus. Not a commandment. A blessing. Paul goes further and tells us that the church is a people who mourns with those who mourn. Yet so often, we rush through grief. We do our mourning a disservice by not giving it the adequate space and time it needs to flourish. Grieving is a way to honor the preciousness of life. I don’t grieve when the loss of something doesn’t really affect me all that much. The pace of life rarely leaves adequate space to properly grieve. We’re more comfortable telling people to “suck it up”, “move on”, “get over it” then to really sit in the discomfort of genuine grief whether our own or that of another.

The last few years have been years filled with loss. I don’t know that I have adequate honored my own grief. Yes, I’ve talked about my losses, but I don’t know that I’ve grieved them. I’m not a crier. There aren’t many rituals for the kinds of loss I have experienced. There are simply wounds that sit open and festering. Maybe they won’t ever fully heal, but I’m barely giving them the opportunity to stop bleeding. I confess that often times I don’t believe that I have the right to grieve. Grief is for the innocent, my mind tells me. Grief is for the victims. But I need to grieve. I need the release. I need to be able to let go so that I can move forward. I go around and around on this. I don’t know what grief looks like for me, but I confess my need for good mourning.

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