Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (New Jerusalem Bible)
There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.
A time for giving birth, a time for dying;
a time for uprooting what has been planted.
A time for killing,
a time for healing;
a time for knocking down,
a time for building.
A time for tears,
a time for laughter;
a time for mourning
a time for dancing.
A time for throwing stones away,
a time for gathering them;
a time for embracing,
a time to refrain from embracing.
A time for searching,
a time for losing;
a time for keeping,
a time for discarding.
A time for tearing,
a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent,
a time for speaking.
A time for loving,
a time for hating;
a time for war,
a time for peace.
It was Thanksgiving when I mentioned to a friend that I was given my choice of the New Year's Eve or the Epiphany readings to reflect upon here. Laughing, she exclaimed, "You get to have the last word!" This seemed a refreshing new approach. It certainly gave us a time for laughter over people we know who just love to have the last word!
Much has been written about people who always seem to need to have the last word. Children quite naturally fall into that category. But we all know some adults, too, who just can't seem to outgrow the habit. They have to put their final two cents worth in to any conversation. It seems they have not taken to heart Qoheleth's admonition regarding times to speak and times to keep silent.
There are different ways to have the last word, as in who wins in Scrabble or Words With Friends. Or, who get the last laugh in a roomful of stand-ups. This compulsion has moved from its allowed presence in formal debates to its less than understood place in social media. When, for example, do email and texting exchanges end appropriately and gracefully?
For many people, the last word really only comes with death. Recently, Brittany Maynard gave the world a resounding last word as she chose to die with dignity. We can only imagine whether that was a time for tears, or a time for laughter, with her and her loved ones.
Among the many half-read books in our home is one titled The Last Word. It is the New York Times Book of Obituaries and Farewells. It is not unusual to find clipping of a related nature "filed" in any given book of my library. So it was that an odd obituary, cut from I know not where, fell from the pages of The Last Word.
This seems to be a time for sharing it.
"Word has been received that Gertrude M. Jones, 81, passed away on August 25, 2003, under the loving care of the nursing aides of Heritage Manor of Mandeville, Louisiana. She was a native of Lebanon, KY. She was a retired Vice President of Georgia International Life Insurance Company of Atlanta, GA. Her husband, Warren K. Jones, predeceased her. Two daughters survive... Funeral services were held in Louisville, KY. Memorial gifts may be made to any organization that seeks the removal of President George Bush from office."
Holy One, may the wisdom of Qoheleth dwell in us deeply, keeping us ever responsive to the times we are called to speak, the times we need to keep silent, and the times we need to laugh or cry.