Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cultural Experiences in Death: More in common than that which differs

Love is the only possible explanation for the extraordinary suffering throughout the world.
-Oscar Wilde

Ethnographic research is one of my favorite, wherein the outsider becomes part of the system in which she is studying, not intending to incite change, but simply to learn. I spent this summer on a Hutterite colony, an Amish-like communal, Germanic society built upon faith, pacifism, and agriculture.

And learn I certainly did.

I am working on the paper now, which I hope to publish in one of my favorite thanatology journals. But I do want to, out-loud, express my gratitude to each and every mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, grandmother, grandfather, friend, and neighbor with whom I spoke who shared, so openly, the painful struggle of infant and child death on the colony. I know none of you will ever read this, but your stories have touched me in profound ways. I will carry the memories of all your children and grandchildren with me, in my heart, all my days on Earth. I am grateful.

What did I learn from this primarily homogeneous culture? Our family systems and structures are contradistinct. Housing structure and proximity vastly different. Religious practices vary a great deal. Even language and garb differ.

Yet, the hearts of grieving parents who have lost children bleeds the same from one culture to another, traversing any differences, and creating an invisible bond of shared pain. No words needed to be exchanged to know this. It could be felt resonating throughout the walls of rooms where tears were so generously expressed, and the eyes of grieving parents resembled so many others I'd seen in my 15 years of work.

Love and suffering, and love, connect us all.

1 comment:

Tracy, mom2many said...

Cant wait to read more about it!


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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