Saturday, March 11, 2006


I live across the street from a church, and am a silent witness to some of the happiest - and some of the saddest - days of people’s lives. They do not see me, usually, peeking through the blinds of my room to scope out the bridesmaid’s dresses, to watch the stoic procession behind the casket. This witnessing affects me in ways it is hard to describe.

Today there is, as every so often happens, a bagpipe player playing for the funeral across the way. I do not understand bagpipes – they seem like the only instrument that is made to ruin good music. I most especially do not understand bagpipes at weddings. The screeching tones do not enhance any song, at least not that I have ever heard. And I cannot seem to hear the difference between a “good” bagpipe player and a “bad” one.

But the sound is plaintive and wailing and utterly fitting for grief.

Bagpipes must have been specifically made for funerals - the notes hang in the air and rend my heart. I dare not look across the street, in fear that the pain and loss they are feeling will further infect me. It is hard enough, sometimes, just to hear the music.

I say a silent prayer when I hear it – in sympathy, with empathy, for the poor family that is standing, suffering, trudging through this awful mass, and in gratitude for myself, that it is not me who is suffering so. At least not today.

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