I recently went to a family friend’s funeral. Sitting in that seat at my former church brought back strange memories of the last time I went to a funeral. I was a kid around 11 years old I think. Another family friend. If I’m being honest, I’m not accustomed to grief. I’ve never had anyone close to me die. My grandpa died when I was 8. I didn’t go to his funeral nor my aunt’s when she died a couple years later.
Listening to the music of the memorial video I couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to lose someone I love. I’m sure it’s not something anyone would wish for me to feel but without it I’m disconnected from every situation of death. It feels abnormal to me.
In the row in front of me there was an older gentleman, cane in hand. The song Amazing Grace started playing. My mom nudged me and gestured towards the old man. He was doing sign language along with the lyrics. I’m sure most people didn’t take notice or couldn’t understand. His hands were shaky and couldn’t sign as well as youthful hands. But my heart felt for him and his grief. I don’t know how he knew the man that died but I hope he’s comforted in his loss.
I didn’t cry the entire funeral except for then. It was the crossing of language barriers. The beauty of it brought me to tears.
I remember when I took a trip to Haiti in 2017, we attended a church service in the village. We started singing Matt Redman’s Ten Thousand Reasons. The Haitian people started singing it in their language while we sang in English. It was such a beautiful moment that none of us expected. After that trip I got the lyrics to the song tattooed on my arm in Creole (the official language of Haiti).
There’s something so beautiful about breaking a language barrier in song or worship. Knowing that we’re singing the same thing, praising the same thing, and understanding each other even for a short moment. There isn’t any difficulty communicating in those moments. It’s those small moments that end up meaning the most.
I think back on that man and how much of a blessing it was to watch him sign my favorite hymn.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”
I’ve always felt those lyrics deep in my soul. So thank you to that man who wasn’t signing for anyone in particular but was beautifully singing a song in his own language. And for showing me how differently we all grieve.