A Quote Worth Thinking About

I might have more of these as the sophomores progress through Olive Ann Burns’s COLD SASSY TREE, but this one really hit me this time through.

The book’s setting is Cold Sassy, Georgia, in 1906. Fourteen-year-old Will’s Granny has died, and he doesn’t like the fact that he has to be in mourning. He has to give up reading the Sunday funnies and he can’t go to baseball games. But he does mourn his grandma. This is what he says the first time he goes to her house after her death:

To mourn is not the same as to be in mourning, which means wearing a black armband and sitting in the parlor , talking to people who call on the bereaved. At first you feel important. The armband makes you special, like having on a badge. But after a day or two, it stops meaning anything.

But to mourn, that’s different. To mourn is to be eaten alive with homesickness for the person. That day, I mourned mostly for Granny, who had lost more than any of us, but also for Grandpa, for Mama, and for myself. I didn’t want to visit Granny in the cemetery like Grandpa was doing. That was just her empty shell over there, whereas here I could touch the things that she had touched, look out on the flowering plants she had looked at, and walked through her house.

I have always felt that way about the people I love who have died. Sometimes my heart cries out for my mother, who has been in heaven eleven years this year. One of my cousins told me that it is the same for him, and his mom has been gone for over thirty years. And I see my mom and my sister, sometimes my brother-in-law, in little things My youngest niece has my mother’s eyes. My sister’s daughter got together with my daughter and made buckeyes at Christmas, something my sister had done.  My brother-in-law’s oldest son, who was three when his dad died, looks a LOT like the family photo of his dad at his age. All these things bring good, warm feelings, really, but they do make me “homesick,” as Will said.

What do people do who don’t believe in Jesus, who don’t have the hope of seeing the people for whom they are homesick again?

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