The gift of tears

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 22 September 2020
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera of our parish church, August 2020.

Lately I have been watching old movies that I wonder why I still cry even if I have seen them more than twice before at the cinema and cable TV. It seems that my being born with “mababa ang luha” (easy to cry) is getting more “mababa” as I get old.

Tears are a gift from God, the most beautiful prayer we can ever express courtesy of the Holy Spirit because when we run out of words for our pains and sadness or when we are overjoyed, he makes us cry to heal and comfort us or complete our joys, assuring us of his loving presence.

That is the reason why we call “home” in Tagalog as “tahanan”: home is where we “stop crying”, that is, “tahan na” because that is where we find all the support we need in times of crisis. Indeed, home is where the heart is.

True to its function, tears cleanse us physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have read two decades ago that researchers at a university in the US have found the chemical composition of our tears differ if we cry because of pain and sadness or due to joy and laughter.

Is it not wonderful and amazing how we take for granted crying and tears without realizing its chemical process within that can transform our very selves?

Photo from Reuters.com, July 2020.
Tears and crying mark our life's coming to full circle.

When I was five years old, I saw the picture of a newborn baby crying in the Book Section of the Reader’s Digest. I asked my mom why the baby was crying. In her usual motherly way of explaining things, she told me that if the baby cries upon birth, it means he/she is alive; if the baby does not cry, he/she is dead.

Kapag umiyak, buhay; walang iyak, patay.

My young mind easily absorbed her words that would remain to be one of the most profound lessons I had ever learned about life at a very young age. As I grew up watching TV and movies, I would always sigh with relief whenever I heard the sounds “uha-uha” because the story would surely be nice and not tragic.

Imagine the great inverse that happens with crying and tears to signal the coming to the outside world of life of another human, of how we have to cry to be alive from then on until we die when it becomes our family and friends’ turn to cry and shed tears for us when we are gone.

But there is something more deeper than this great inverse on crying in life and death I had learned only in 2013 through my best friend Gil, a classmate in our minor seminary.

It was late February of that year on the 40th day of the death of his youngest sister Claire when he was diagnosed with cancer. We could not believe the news because Gil was the most health conscious in our “band of brothers” from high school who never smoked, rarely ate meat, and was active in sports like golf and badminton. Unlike most of us, he was never overweight, looked so healthy in our mid-40’s.

Imagine the hurt within him that every time we would visit him, he would cry not really in pain but more on the why of getting cancer. We tried visiting him as often as we can to cheer him up and lift his spirits specially after his surgery when his chemotherapy sessions began.

By September on that same year, we all had to rush and visit him at Makati Med one Sunday afternoon when informed by his Ate Lily that doctors have given up on him. His cancer cells were “ferocious” and nothing could be done anymore except to wait for the inevitable.

That was when I noticed the greater inverse about crying when Gil had finally accepted his condition and life direction, that was when he was most joyous and peaceful too while we were the ones so sad and worried, crying. How our roles were reversed with Gil now telling us to stop crying – tahan na – which we used to tell him months earlier! (Gil died peacefully the following Sunday, 22 September 2013.)

“Mater Dolorosa” as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

I noticed it happening so many times with some friends and parishioners I have come to love in my ministry, those I have pastorally cared for some time after being diagnosed with serious conditions like cancer.

Yes, I have cried despite holding my tears for them while administering the Holy Viaticum and Anointing of Oil. The patients in turn would just glance at me, so dignified and calm like Mary our Lady of Sorrows as if trying to comfort me with their sweet thank you.

As I prayed on those experiences, I realized how life comes to full circle through our crying and tears.

I believe that patients cry when they start undergoing treatment of their sickness due to fears and uncertainty of what would happen next to them; later as they come to terms with their condition, they stop crying because they already knew where they were going, of what was coming next.

We who would be left behind cry and begin to shed tears at thoughts of their dying because admittedly, we are actually the ones more uncertain of where we are going to or how our lives would go through when our loved ones are gone.

That is the greatest pain we feel in the death of a beloved when we grapple with the realities of the many uncertainties of life without them.

And that is why we need to love as much as we can our family and friends while still alive. This quarantine period of the pandemic are grace-filled moments to shower them with our love and presence we have taken for granted for so long as we pursued many things in our lives.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Infanta, Quezon, April 2020.
Tears and crying lead us to heaven.

Death and sickness, like life, become a blessing if we are filled with gratitude not regrets because we have truly loved. When a beloved is gone and we begin to cry, the tears wash away our pains of losing them, cleansing us within to leave us with all the beautiful memories and love we have shared. Then, every remembering becomes truly a re-membering, making a lost loved one a member of the present again.

When we cry, tears polish the love we have shared with everybody until later when our time comes, our visions are also cleared of what is going to happen next, of where we are going. Crying becomes wonderful and truly a grace after all not only in sharing and being one with the grief and pain of another in the present but sooner or later, in having a glimpse of the life after.

In the Gospel of John (11:1-44), we find the story of the raising of Lazarus whom Jesus loved so much that he wept – not just cried – at his death. Jesus raised him up back to life, his final miracle – or “seventh sign” according to John – to show he is the Christ before his own Resurrection at Easter after his “final hour” of Crucifixion on Good Friday.

From then on, Christ sanctified crying and tears to enable us to see beyond pains and hurts, even death especially if you have truly loved.

Sometimes in life, it is always good to let those tears flow, like love even if it is painful, to have a good cry and real cleansing inside. A blessed day to you!

2 thoughts on “The gift of tears

  1. Thank you for this wonderful reflection for today Fr. Nick this is now one of my faves. I also believe that if we have that one good cry, if we just let ourselves have that one good cry the pain that we have will reside at some point although it will not immediately heal you at least it eases the pain and it will help you focus again in life.

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