Solomon was the second son of King David and Bathsheba. He ascended to the throne following his father’s death and reigned over Israel for 40 years. He accumulated great wealth and surrounded himself with luxury. He embraced an extravagant lifestyle and had every reason to party.
But Solomon was also gifted with unsurpassed wisdom. He addressed everyday issues with penetrating insight and perceptive judgement.
Solomon says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting.” (Eccl. 7:2) How could such an influential king come to such a puzzling conclusion? In our modern culture such thinking runs counter to all we aspire to. Are we not obsessive in our search for pleasure?
I remember my first encounter with sorrow and mourning. I attended the graveside service of my Uncle Bert who died age 67. I knew my Uncle Bert quite well as he accompanied us on our summer holiday fishing excursions. I remember him catching a carpet shark off the surf beach at Lakes Entrance. My father and I would also go to his house in Caulfield on a Friday night to play scrabble. He was a kind, unassuming man who took an interest in what you were doing. He was not only an older brother to my father but a true friend. I cried, as did other family members, as the casket was lowered into the ground.
The house of mourning reminds us of our mortality. Someday we will die. Uncle Bert experienced a number of medical challenges, including angina, but died peacefully in his sleep.
There is an uncertainty to life. Tragedy, illness or mishap can hasten the end. Knowing that death awaits forces us to evaluate our priorities and to weigh up what we want to do with the days allotted us.
The house of mourning also brings greater clarity to our daily routine. The party goer is focussed on ‘the good time’ often at the expense of everything else. It is a futile attempt to drown out every remembrance of the mundane, or trouble, or disappointment. It is filling the void with merriment.
When I heard of my son, Adam’s death, I felt assaulted. It was as though death was taunting me. “No one! No one! No one will escape my clutches.” It is a fatalistic message draining life of laughter and joy. But it is a lie. Whilst we live with certainty of our eventual death we recognise that life offers a unique opportunity to love and to celebrate the vibrancy and vitality of our day to day existence.
We have a new granddaughter. To hold a newborn baby in your arms is to have hope renewed. There are polarities, life and death, and there is resurrection with the promise of no more mourning and no more tears.