Thursday, September 6, 2012

On Crying and Dying, And Life In Between

Tonight, I came home from work, too tired to even eat dinner, and decided that I was going to watch part of a movie for laughs. I picked Big Fish. Two hours later, I emerged, sobbing wildly and starving.

Big Fish is the story of an estranged father and son. The father, Edward Bloom, is a teller of tall tales (well, they're certainly not short) and the son, Will, would prefer the facts. Will feels he does not know his father, and he holds a grudge against him for not being around more when he was younger.

Three years after one-story-too-many, they come back together as the father is dying, and it is through this passage of time that more is revealed. The movie is itself a tall tale, truth mixed with imagination, fantastical, and shows the power of love and kindness to overcome any situation.

I've already spoiled it for some of you, if you like guessing endings, by knowing that I sobbed and sobbed and could hardly breathe I was crying so hard.

But life isn't about the ending to the story, and neither is this movie. It's the journey Edward Bloom had and the adventure he made his life into. It's amazing and it's worth crying over. The beauty of his life is what touched me and moved me to tears.

I used to be embarrassed by crying. It took many years and not enough tears to teach me differently. I no longer, for instance, think it is a weakness to cry, though I still try to resist. When I told my fiance I probably wouldn't cry at our wedding, he kindly reminded me that I cry during P&G commercials. (Those were happy tears! Yes! Happy!)

So what changed? What makes me [more] okay with crying now?

Would you believe me if I told you Christ made it okay? Could you see a genuine conversion if I said he broke open my heart and poured in his forgiveness? He softened my need to be strong for me; now, he cries with me, and laughs with me, and is always with me, even in despondency.

I cried because I saw my own dad in Edward Bloom -- a teller of tall tales, a warm smile and quick laugh. I cried because of all the people whose stories we also saw in the movie - people whose lives were made better by Edward Bloom - were there at the end.

Isn't that what we want to imagine Heaven is like? A giant coming home gathering, where everyone is there and everyone is happy to see you. And God! God is there, and God is love, and you are completely enveloped and overwhelmed by that love. It's just too much. So you cry.

I think about death a lot. I know this sounds morbid, and maybe it is, but bear with me. I think about death because I value my one scrawny life so much. I think about death because I miss people whom have passed from this life and into the next. I think about death because it's real, just like the judgement I'll face after this life is real. I think about death because there are people I can't imagine living without, and I have to remind myself to pray for them so as to never, ever, ever lose hope.

If there is one thing Christ gave us, it's hope. Hope for the future, hope for our lives, and hope for renewal of all. Nothing is out of his reach and nothing is outside his redemption. I cling to that hope when I'm having a rough day. I rejoice in that hope when I think of my fiance and my elation that we are joining our lives together. I am blessed by the hope that my family will all be together in Paradise when the day comes that we cannot be together here on earth.

Big Fish is a movie worth watching. It is thoughtful and charming, and the cast is excellent. It is more than a story worth telling: it is a story worth hearing. Death is never the ending. If you watch it, I hope it touches the crags of your heart; and if you're moved to smile and laugh and cheer and cry, you're in good company.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning
The end is where we start from. (T.S. Eliot, from "Burnt Norton")


  1. Very nice, Julie. I can relate a lot with your sentiments here.

  2. This was such a lovely, beautiful, powerful reflection, Julie!

  3. Thanks for the reminder about hope. I will have to watch that movie.