Grief and Fritos

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“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.”   -Luke 6:25

The first hospital vigil I ever kept was a few weeks into my ordination.  A young mother of two teenage children had sat down to dinner with her husband and kids, had a massive heart attack, and never regained consciousness.  We sat with her at the hospital for 48 hours, shell-shocked, as the doctors tried valiantly to think of something miraculous and new, to science this problem.  Her parents drove down immediately, and joined our vigil.

I was a baby priest–still a transitional deacon–and was struggling with what, exactly, I should be doing during all these hours.  Reading the Bible?  Praying unceasingly?  Offering sage and comforting advice?  None of these seemed achievable–but I had the idea in my brain that I needed to be Holy, Wise, and therefore, Serious.  And Serious Priests, I felt, probably didn’t show up to the hospital with wet hair and get distracted by why the coffee tasted like plastic.  I settled for crouching silently in the corner and thinking Serious thoughts.

Meanwhile, the woman’s mother, around 3 am on the second night, discovered a package of Fritos, and began to read it to her husband.  “Honey, it has the strangest things in here.  Why do you suppose that is?  What do you suppose these things are?  Corn syrup.  Malto-dex….” she trailed off, and then made a complete mangle of some chemical name.  Her husband looked at her and burst out laughing.  She looked shocked, then tried again, and started giggling.  The two teenagers, who minutes before had been sitting in shocked silence, started coming up with increasingly outlandish ingredients for Fritos.  Corn mash!  Hydro-mashed-up-corn-pellets! And falling over with gales of laughter.

For a few moments, they could forget what was happening, and relish the sheer absurdity of whatever goes into corn chips.  For a few minutes, they could find comfort in each other, and bear up for what was coming.  Laughter, and Fritos ingredients, are a clear gift, even if weeping comes later.

Jesus reminds us to recognize the gift of being present to our emotions, to the location life has placed us. Trying to be something we aren’t in the moment, or trying to be something we think we’re supposed to be, isn’t loving to ourselves or others.

Being authentic locates us in God. Mourning or laughing – or feeling both seemingly conflicting emotions together – God holds them all and holds us in these moments.

Megan Castellan is our writer this week. She serves as Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri, and diocesan youth coordinator for the Metro Kansas City area.  Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt  and on Twitter @revlucymeg. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and cheering on KC-based sportsball teams.

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