In King Lear, it’s the fool Edgar who has the last word:
“The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”
Behind the fool’s mask, Shakespeare urges us to admit the suffering of it all, but at the same time to look deep into the dark heart of things and tell the truth of what we see.
A friend of mine, a religious sister for too many years to count, wrote to me about the changes in her community. As they age and membership declines, they are forced to sell their property.
Now, their beloved chapel is being closed, declared profane, no longer an officially sacred place.
My friend has worked with church groups throughout the world, but this chapel was her spiritual home. It was their “upper room” where sins were confessed, their banquet shared, commitments made, lives celebrated and friends mourned.
She could have lashed out at the change and loss, but instead she spoke of the pain, the grief, the long days of healing required.
Last week, I went to a memorial gathering for my cousin. Well, not my cousin by blood, but then, more than a cousin as she lived with us when our uncle, her stepfather, parceled out his kids to his siblings.
At her son’s house, I found another “cousin,” the deceased’s full sister who had left home before the others were reassigned. Angry and rebellious, she never looked back.
I hadn’t seen her in over 60 years, so we had some catching up. It was awkward at first but gained momentum and depth.
She told me of the love of her life — one of the two husbands she buried — and of her five kids, including the two she had already lost.
She hadn’t seen her sister in 21 years, but something deep inside, painful but insistent, brought her to unfamiliar family a thousand miles from home.
She now hopes regrets may someday turn to joy.
There were others this past week — a woman still learning to celebrate the life of her 35-year-old son, and a priest friend weeping in fear that he may be removed from his ministry to a people everyone wants to ignore.
They all spoke what they felt, not what they ought to say.
As Jesus and the fool both knew, our deepest truth is found in our story, but we seldom find it until we hear ourselves tell it.