Men Speak, Women Weep

by Carol Hess on July 29, 2011

Funeral services make no sense to me.  Why do the men do all the speaking, and the women do all the weeping? 

When we come together to celebrate a life and mourn a death, why do we turn to the men to tell us who we have lost and how we feel about it?  Why do the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of the departed loved one sit passively quiet and allow the fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons to speak the public goodbye?  It makes no sense to me.

We sit in our isolated pews of grief and listen to words – carefully chosen words from poems, pulpits, and printed programs.  Words written, chosen, and delivered by men.  Carefully rehearsed and carefully spoken eulogies designed not to disclose too much emotion, too much love, too much grief.  It makes no sense to me.

Haven’t the women always been the first to speak life’s important words?  “Hello.”  “I’m sorry.”  “I forgive you.”  “I love you.”  “Goodbye.”  Haven’t the women been the letter writers, phone callers, and conversation initiators in our lives?   Why are they then silenced when it is time to initiate the final conversation?  When it’s time to declare the final I love you and say the final goodbye?  It makes no sense to me.

When I die, I want the women to speak.  I want women’s words spoken in women’s voices.  It is women’s talk that has enriched and enlightened my life.  It is women’s talk that will enrich and enlighten my death.  How else will my soul soar upward except on the wings of women’s words? 

When I die, I want clapping and laughing and lots and lots of singing.  I lived my life out loud.  I want that life celebrated out loud.  I want that life’s end mourned out loud.  How else will heaven hear I am on my way? 

Today the men speak.  And even though the men’s words are flat and inadequate, the women weep.  They discretely wipe the tears from their cheeks.  No sniffing, no crying, no sobbing. They keep their heads bowed, not in devotion but to ensure that none will meet their eyes and see their tears.  It makes no sense to me.

Why are we so scared of women’s tears?  Aren’t they the same tears that greeted our births with joy?  The same tears that celebrated our successes with pride?  The same tears that cleansed our wounds with compassion? 

When we mark the end of a life, isn’t that when we most need the salty river of women’s tears?  Isn’t it women’s tears that will hold us up and prevent us from drowning in life’s most profound ocean of sadness we call death?  It makes no sense to me.

When I die, I want the men to weep.  I want the women to weep.  I want the children and the angels in heaven to weep.  I want rivers of tears – tears of joy and tears of sadness.  It is rivers of tears that healed my life.  It is rivers of tears that will heal my death. 

How else will I swim to heaven except on the tears of those who loved me here on earth?

by Carol Hess


Categories Carol's Musings

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sandi Amorim August 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

A reader told me my post today made her cry, and now here I am crying as I read your post. It reminded me of what I’ve never liked about funerals. The separation in place of connection, the guilt-ridden grief in place of celebration. When we make the effort to share and communicate in life there is no place for guilt in death.



avatar Carol Hess August 3, 2011 at 11:21 am

“The separation in place of connection” — exactly, Sandi. It’s as if each of us are isolated islands awash in our grief instead of flowing together and recognizing that to be human is to have feelings. As for guilt, I’m not sure that has a place anywhere, does it? Thank you, Sandi, for your thought-full sharing.


avatar Sandi Amorim August 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Guilt is an emotion whose only purpose is to keep us stuck and feeling bad. Growing up Catholic you could say I’m very familiar with this. I’d also say that’s why as an adult completion is so important to me. Everyone messes up sometime, and all there is to do is clean it up, ie: get it complete so you can move on. Feeling bad and suppressing emotion begins the cycle of guilt, which quickly becomes a vicious circle, endlessly looping back into itself. It’s exhausting, unhealthy and pointless.

My two cents on guilt 😉


avatar Carol Hess August 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

That was worth at least 25 cents! And I couldn’t agree more.


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