Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
That struck a chord with me because I have been dealing with grief and loss recently. Over the past few weeks a family friend from church passed away as well as a student of mine in the adult literacy center. Both of their deaths are drew out a lot of emotion for me because sometimes time, circumstances, or my own mind won't let me grieve. So suddenly a wall of pain, loss, and emotion hit me over the period of a week.
But this isn't a story about how I ended up curled up in a ball on my bed sobbing (though that did happen a little). I instead tried to embrace the grieving process in New Orleans. What is so unique about New Orleans is the idea of a second line. Second lines were started at funerals; the first line is the funeral dirge to the burial but the second line the uplifting song played leaving the graveside to celebrate life. Funerals are not just a mourning over death. Instead, they are a celebration and rejoicing of life.
I definitely saw that today when I went to my student's funeral and spent two hours going between crying or sniffling to singing and clapping. There were definitely tears, but there was also laughter and fond memories shared. I sang along with the choir and clapped to their upbeat songs—which were numerous—and I felt more at peace with my sadness. I think it was because I was not afraid to cry for this student I have only known for a few months yet seen so many times; it was also because it was a celebration of his life, his family, his faith, and his mission.
I think that's the way to get through grief sometimes. It is to cry and shake your head and wonder what happened. It is to be upset because you cannot go to the funeral of a family friend from your church who died while you were away. But it's also to sit back and laugh at fond memories; it's to celebrate life rather than curse death. That's so hard for me to wrap my head around sometimes, but like Louis Armstrong, I can miss New Orleans but I can also rejoice in it's culture and it's beauty while it's gone.