Thursday, February 18, 2010

Those Tears Sure Do Sting

As I wrote yesterday, this is a time to forgive.

In my hometown this afternoon, they will bury Jim Johnson.

If you're a regular reader of this blog — but, for whatever reason, have been away lately — let me quickly bring you up to speed. I have written recently about Mr. Johnson's death over the weekend and then, after seeing the angry and bitter things some people in my home state have been writing about him, I felt moved to write about that, too.

I'm not naive enough to think that burying him will put to rest the pain of the past. But it may be the start of healing for those who loved him. And I am one of those.

When I think of Jim Johnson, I don't think of the segregationist whose rhetoric is still remembered, decades later, by people who were offended by it. I think of the man I knew — the devoted father of my childhood friends.

I don't mind saying that I have shed many tears in recent days. I have shed nearly as many tears as I did in the days following my mother's death. I have probably shed nearly as many tears as I will shed when my own father dies.

And I can tell you that tears really do sting.

I don't know why that is. Perhaps there is a chemical explanation for it.

Maybe there is a difference between tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Maybe tears of sorrow have more salt than tears of joy. Because I have shed tears of joy, and I don't remember those tears stinging my eyes the way tears of sorrow do.

Certainly not the way these tears have stung my eyes.

I know there are people in my home state who are unaffected by Mr. Johnson's death. I know there are some who have welcomed it, who have rejoiced in it. And I guess that is inevitable.

But I think many forget — or conveniently overlook — the fact that, behind the death of a controversial figure, there are people who genuinely mourn. That grief has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with human relationships.

Jim Johnson leaves behind three sons. According to the obituary on my hometown newspaper's website, he had eight grandchildren. And he had countless friends, many of whom will almost certainly be at the service this afternoon.

That service is now only a few hours away.

I hope it brings some peace to my friends. I hope the knowledge that the funeral has been held and Mr. Johnson has been buried will bring an end to these tears for me.

But, mostly, I hope those who can't forget the past can at least forgive.

For their sake as well as Mr. Johnson's.

Perhaps tomorrow, I will resume writing about other subjects. But today, my thoughts and my emotions simply won't permit it.

Rest in peace, Mr. Johnson.

No comments: